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Vela gets goal, assist to lead LAFC past Timbers 3-2

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PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) Latif Blessing gave a simple “yes” when asked if he considers Los Angeles FC and Portland a rivalry.

Saturday’s matchup had all the makings.

Carlos Vela had a goal and an assist in the first half to lead LAFC past the Timbers 3-2.

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Vela, Major League Soccer’s goals and assists leader, helped LAFC (11-1-4) fend off Portland’s late rally to end the Timbers’ 15-game win streak in home openers.

LAFC withstood a run that included an 85th minute goal by Portland’s Brian Fernandez to pull within one, and shoving in the final minutes that resulted in yellows to Fernandez and LAFC’s Adama Diomande.

“We’re not naive, we understand teams are going to have a hard way to play against us, try to make it hard,” LAFC coach Bob Bradley said. “When’s the last time you saw Messi get mauled the way Carlos (Vela) got mauled tonight?”

Vela scored in the 6th minute after intercepting a pass from Portland goalkeeper Jeff Attinella. He found Diego Rossi on a cross for a goal that made it 2-0 in the 34th minute.

Portland didn’t go away. Christhian Paredes scored less than two minutes into the second half on a goalkeeper deflection as the Timbers pulled within a goal. LAFC’s Blessing countered in the 54th minute with a wide-open volley off of a cross.

“Great cross, great finish, so I’m happy,” Blessing said.

Fernandez scored on a bicycle kick inside the six-yard box to pull Portland within 3-2 in the 85th minute. It was Fernandez’s fourth goal in three appearances with the Timbers since he was acquired as a designated player on May 6.

“We knew that if we had a good start to the second half, the game was there,” Timbers midfielder Diego Valeri said. “And obviously, the crowd lifted us.

“It was a good game, and a good performance, but not the result we wanted, so we have to keep going.”

It was the first home game of the season for the Timbers (4-7-2) and the debut of the remodeled Providence Park. According to the club, the expansion added 4,137 seats in a grandstand on the stadium’s east side to push capacity over 25,000. MLS commissioner Don Garber was in attendance among the sellout crowd of 25,218.

“The place is rocking as it always does, it’s just a little bit louder,” Garber said at halftime. “More people sort of showing their passion for the team. … The Timbers are such an important part of the history of soccer in America have been reflected in the addition.”

Vela has 16 goals and 10 assists this season, six goals ahead of the next-highest scorer.

LAFC has scored a league-high 39 goals.

LAFC is in first place in the Western Conference and boasts one of the best records in the league. The Timbers, who made the MLS Cup final last season, went 4-6-2 in its first 12 games on the road.

Vela continues assault of MLS, LAFC trounce Sounders

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The game in 100 words (or less): Let’s get the painfully obvious out of the way right off the top: Carlos Vela shouldn’t be allowed in MLS. It should be considered a violation of league rules β€” a league with self-imposed parity β€” for a player to do what Vela is currently doing to MLS. The Mexican superstar bagged another brace on Sunday β€” his third multi-goal game of the season β€” to take his season tally to 10 goals (to go with five assists) in LAFC’s first nine games. At this rate, he’ll have enough votes to secure the MVP award by June. His team is benefitting hugely from these performances, by the way. Sunday’s 4-1 demolition of the previously unbeaten Seattle Sounders, the Western Conference’s third-place side, gives Bob Bradley‘s men seven wins to start the season, and a four-point lead on the chasing pack. It should be noted the Sounders were without a number of key starters on Sunday.

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Three moments that mattered

12′ β€” Vela finishes Kaye’s jaw-dropping pass β€” Vela’s finish is stunning and difficult, but Mark-Anthony Kaye’s through ball is, somehow, even better. Kaye had three assists in the game.

55′ β€” Vela rounds Frei to make it 3-1 β€” Eduard Atuesta has been a revelation in midfield for LAFC. Let’s take the below pass as just one shining example.

61′ β€” Ramirez starts, finishes liquid sequence for LAFC’s 4th β€” The defending is, admittedly, poor and lazy, but let’s not take everything away from Christian Ramirez (backheel and finish) and Kaye (through ball, again).

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Man of the match: Mark-Anthony Kaye

Goalscorers: Vela (12′), Atuesta (39′), Shipp (51′), Vela (55′), Ramirez (61′)

MLS Preview: Top of the table clash in Western Conference awaits

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Here’s everything you need to know ahead of a busy and exciting week eight of MLS action, starting on Friday night.

[ MORE: All of PST’s MLS coverage ]

Los Angeles FC v. Seattle Sounders β€” Sunday, 7 p.m. ET

Unbeaten no more, Los Angeles FC returns home to Banc of California Stadium this weekend to face another Cascadia opponent, only this time, it’s one much stronger on paper. The Seattle Sounders’ visit to LAFC this Sunday sets up a highly-anticipated top of the table clash in the Western Conference, and a Sounders win would put both sides level at 19 points in the standings. Meanwhile, an LAFC win would give Bob Bradley‘s squad an even-bigger lead over the rest of the conference.

Working on Seattle’s favor is that the team has a full week of practice to prepare. It’s coming off a game in which backup forward Will Bruin and midfielder Christian Roldan scored the goals, with Raul Ruidiaz, Nicolas Lodeiro and Jordan Morris all ready for their chance to make an impact. For LAFC, it will have to quickly shake off the defeat and travel fatigue from the trip up the west coast to be ready to face the quick counter attacks of the Sounders. It should be an exciting match, with temperatures expected in the mid-60s around game time, perfect for most players.

LA Galaxy v. Houston Dynamo β€” Friday, 11 p.m. ET

LAFC may be taking all the attention, but LA’s “other” – some might say, first – team has quietly had a strong start to the season. The LA Galaxy look more like the title-contending teams of old under former Columbus Crew and Boca Juniors legend Guillermo Barros Schelotto, with five wins in the club’s first six games of the season. Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored a brace in the Galaxy’s last match, a 2-0 win over the Philadelphia Union, and more importantly, Schelotto appears to have solved the backline woes, as the Galaxy secured another clean sheet.

On the other side, Wilmer Cabrera looks to have rebounded from an off-year in 2018 with a playoff contender in 2019. On the attack, the Dynamo are one of the most dangerous teams in the league, having scored two or more goals in all but one of their games so far this season. Alberth Elis, Mauro Manotas and Tomas Martinez make up one of the best attacking trios in the league, and the Galaxy defense will have plenty of work to do to keep those three from finding the back of the net. Expect goals, and end-to-end action in this one if you stay up for it on the east coast, or you lean back on the couch if on the west coast. In what’s becoming more of a trend, this match will be streamed on Twitter.

Columbus Crew v. Portland Timbers β€” Sunday, 7:30 p.m. ET

Caleb Porter takes on his former club for the first time since resigning after the 2017 season as the Portland Timbers continue their barnstorming start of the season with a trip to the Columbus Crew. The Timbers are currently the worst team in the standings, with no wins and just one point from the club’s first six games, and the tests won’t get any easier as the few holdovers from the Porter-era in Portland will know. The Timbers are starting the MLS season with eight-straight home games as their home field, Providence Park, undergoes renovations. However, that means that there’s plenty of home games at the back-end, and if the Timbers can pick up a few points before June, it could put them in a place to battle for a playoff place come October.

The Crew meanwhile has done very well under Porter, who took over after the departure of Gregg Berhalter to the U.S. Men’s National Team. The Crew are currently in second place in the Eastern Conference standings, though they suffered a surprise 1-0 defeat last week against Montreal. Look for the likes of Federico “Pipa” Higuain, Gyasi Zardes and Wil Trapp to have a bigger impact against the Timbers, in what will be a rematch from the 2015 MLS Cup final.

Full MLS schedule

Friday

FC Cincinnati v. Real Salt Lake β€” 7:30 p.m. ET
Toronto FC v. Minnesota United β€” 8 p.m. ET
LA Galaxy v. Houston Dynamo β€” 11 p.m. ET

Saturday

Chicago Fire v. Colorado Rapids β€” 1 p.m. ET
Philadelphia Union v. Montreal Impact β€” 1 p.m. ET
Orlando City v. Vancouver Whitecaps β€” 3 p.m. ET
Atlanta United v. FC Dallas β€” 4 p.m. ET
Columbus Crew v. Portland Timbers β€” 7:30 p.m. ET
New England Revolution v. New York Red Bulls β€” 7:30 p.m. ET
San Jose Earthquakes v. Sporting KC β€” 10 p.m. ET
FC Cincinnati v. Real Salt Lake β€” 7:30 p.m. ET

Saturday

D.C. United v. New York City FC β€” 4 p.m. ET
Los Angeles FC v. Seattle Sounders β€” 7 p.m. ET

MLS preview: Minnesota United opens brand-new Allianz Field

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Here’s everything you need to know ahead of a busy and exciting week seven of MLS action, starting on Friday night.

[ MORE: All of PST’s MLS coverage ]

Minnesota United v. New York City FC β€” Saturday, 5 p.m. ET

Minnesota United finally has a sparkling soccer-specific stadium to call home. The Loons will take the pitch at Allianz Field for the first time this season, opening the stadium with a favorable matchup. This time last season, we wouldn’t have said that about New York City FC, but the club continues to struggle under manager Dome Torrent, leading to fan apathy and disappointment.

Minnesota, which picked up a huge road win at the New York Red Bulls last week, is itching to start their life at Allianz Field with a victory, while NYCFC has yet to record a win this season. NYCFC will need to find an answer for Abu Danladi, the speedy forward who torched the Red Bulls a week ago.

Seattle Sounders v. Toronto FC β€” Saturday, 4 p.m. ET

Although the two clubs are in different conferences, there’s plenty of bitter history between the Seattle Sounders and Toronto FC, dating back to their MLS Cup final meetings in 2016 and 2017. Both teams have started the season hot, a rarity for the Sounders while a return to success for TFC after a dreadful 2018.

Jordan Morris leads the Sounders with three goals in his return from a torn ACL, partnering well early on with Raul Ruidiaz. Meanwhile Alejandro Pozuelo has been a sensation since his arrival in MLS, having scored two goals already. He also set up Jozy Altidore last week in Toronto’s 2-2 draw with the Chicago Fire with a dime to the back post.

Ultimately, it will be up to the likes of Christian Roldan and Seattle’s central midfield to keep Pozuelo under wraps.

Los Angeles FC v. FC Cincinnati β€” Saturday, 10:30 p.m. ET

Coming off a 4-0 thrashing at D.C. United, Los Angeles FC is the hottest team in MLS right now. LAFC is still unbeaten, with five wins and a draw, and Carlos Vela is playing some of the best soccer in his career, showing he’s still good enough to be playing in Europe’s top leagues. Vela is the early contender for the Landon Donovan MVP trophy, with seven goals and four assists through his team’s first six games.

Like LAFC a year ago, FC Cincinnati is off to a strong start as well, with a couple of wins and a pair of draws in the early part of the season. It will be a tough test for FC Cincy at an in-form LAFC side but FC Cincy has pulled off impressive draws with both Atlanta United and Sporting KC.

Full MLS schedule

Friday

Chicago Fire v. Vancouver Whitecaps β€” 8:30 p.m. ET

Saturday

Montreal Impact v. Columbus Crew β€” 1 p.m. ET
Houston Dynamo v. San Jose Earthquakes β€” 3 p.m. ET
Seattle Sounders v. Toronto FC β€” 4 p.m. ET
Minnesota United v. New York City FC β€” 5 p.m. ET
New England Revolution v. Atlanta United β€” 7:30 p.m. ET
FC Dallas v. Portland Timbers β€” 8 p.m. ET
Colorado Rapids v. D.C. United β€” 9 p.m. ET
Real Salt Lake v. Orlando City β€” 9 p.m. ET
LA Galaxy v. Philadelphia Union β€” 10:30 p.m. ET
Los Angeles FC v. FC CincinnatiΒ β€” 10:30 p.m. ET

Sunday

Sporting Kansas City v. New York Red Bulls β€” 7 p.m. ET

MLS preview: DCU host LAFC in possible MLS Cup preview

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Get ready for another busy weekend of MLS action, beginning Friday night…

[ MORE: Danny Rose breaks silence about facing racist abuse in Montenegro ]

D.C. United v. Los Angeles FC β€” Saturday, 3 p.m. ET

Based on four weeks of results, this could very well be a preview of MLS Cup 2019. A few numbers to paint a picture of early-season dominance:

  • No team in MLS has won more points than LAFC’s 13 (from five games)
  • No team in the Eastern Conference has won more than D.C. United’s 10 (from four games)
  • No team in MLS has conceded fewer goals than United’s one β€” one, singular
  • No team in MLS has scored more goals than LAFC’s 15
  • No player in MLS has scored more goals than Carlos Vela’s six, or assisted more than Vela’s three, thus no player in MLS has scored and assisted more goals than Vela’s nine
  • No player in MLS (other than Vela)Β has scored more goals than Wayne Rooney‘s four, or assisted more than Rooney’s three

Based on the above evidence, Vela and Rooney are clear frontrunners for the 2019 MVP award. At this moment in time, most would probably call their teams the frontrunners to lift MLS Cup on Nov. 10.

Vancouver Whitecaps v. LA Galaxy β€” Friday, 10 p.m. ET

Zlatan Ibrahimovic has vowed to play when the LA Galaxy visit stadiums with artificial playing surfaces in 2019, beginning with Friday’s trip to BC Place to take on the Vancouver Whitecaps. Despite missing more than three weeks of action due to an achilles issue last month, Ibrahimovic says he is fully fit and ready to go.

“I’m ready,” he said this week. “No consequences [from] my issue I had a couple of weeks ago. If I feel good, I will play.”

The big Swede missed just four games upon signing the Galaxy in 2018, two of which were played on artificial surfaces and one for a “suspension” for not playing in the All-Star Game, on turf. Despite missing two games during the injury, Ibrahimovic is off to a quick start with three goals scored in the two games he has played.

Toronto FC v. Chicago Fire β€” 3 p.m. ET

Toronto FC have, to the tune of three wins from their first three games, bounced back from a disastrous 2018 season which saw them miss the playoffs by 14 points. The Reds have gotten key contributions from the likes of Michael Bradley and Jozy Altidore, before the arrival β€” and stunning debut β€” of Alejandro Pozuelo.

With the Spaniard now in tow, a backline which was reduced to rubble last year back to full strength, Greg Vanney’s side has look downright dominant at times. Having scored no fewer than three goals in any game this season, the sky could be the limit once again as Pozuelo quickly acclimates to life in MLS offers his best impression of Sebastian Giovinco’s gaudy goal and assist numbers.

Full MLS schedule

Friday

Vancouver Whitecaps v. LA Galaxy β€” 10 p.m. ET

Saturday

New York City FC v. Montreal Impact β€” 1 p.m. ET
D.C. United v. Los Angeles FC β€” 3 p.m. ET
Toronto FC v. Chicago Fire β€” 3 p.m. ET
New York Red Bulls v. Minnesota United β€” 7 p.m. ET
Columbus Crew SC v. New England Revolution β€” 7:30 p.m. ET
Orlando City SC v. Colorado Rapids β€” 7:30 p.m. ET
Philadelphia Union v. FC Dallas β€” 7:30 p.m. ET
San Jose Earthquakes v. Portland Timbers β€” 8 p.m. ET
Seattle Sounders v. Real Salt Lake β€” 10 p.m. ET

Sunday

FC Cincinnati v. Sporting Kansas City β€” 3 p.m. ET