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Vela’s latest golazo one-upped as LAFC lose late to Portland

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This much is certain about Los Angeles FC: there’s never — ever — a dull moment when Bob Bradley‘s expansion side is on the field.

[ MORE: Toronto FC score late to beat Orlando, get season back on track ]

Not only are the goals plentiful — for both sides (23 scored, 18 conceded in their first 11 games) — but they tend to be of the highest quality — again, for both sides.

Take, for example, Saturday’s 2-1 defeat to the Portland Timbers, a result which extends Portland’s winning streak to five games and sends Giovanni Savarese’s side third in the Western Conference, now just three points behind LAFC (with a game in hand).

LAFC fell 1-0 behind when Cristhian Paredes scored his first MLS goal in the 52nd minute, then a pair of world-class stunners saw the visitors pull level in the 74th and fall behind once again in the 81st.

[ MORE: Chelsea top Man United to win 8th FA Cup | Three things ]

First, the latest bit of curling genius from Carlos Vela…

It’s not the first — and almost certainly won’t be the last — time we’ve seen that exact goal scored by LAFC’s Mexican superstar. Only this time, Vela was immediately upstaged by Samuel Armenteros, who up to that point had been held without a goal in his first two-plus months in MLS. This is one way to formally introduce yourself to the Rose City faithful…

FOLLOW LIVE – MLS: Portland, Seattle renew rivalry for 100th time

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For the 100th time in the history of their storied rivalry which began in NASL back in 1975, the Portland Timbers and Seattle Sounders, two sides currently heading in completely opposite directions, will do battle on Sunday (4 p.m. ET) at Providence Park.

[ FOLLOW: Surging Timbers host wounded Sounders ]

Portland enter Sunday’s milestone clash winners of three straight (their only wins of the season) for the first time since their first three games of 2017, while the Sounders, bruised and battered as they are, sit bottom of the Western Conference with just two wins on the still-semi-young campaign.

Hit the link above to follow along throughout the afternoon, and check back with PST for coverage after the final whistle.

Among the injured and unavailable for Seattle are Nicolas Lodeiro, Osvaldo Alonso, Roman Torres, Will Bruin and Victor Rodriguez.

[ MORE: Other MLS Things — The Archive ]

Seattle holds the advantage in all-time meetings between the sides (50W-14D-35L) after going unbeaten against Portland in 2017 (one win, two draws in league play; victory in the U.S. Open Cup), though they haven’t won in Portland since August 2014 (three losses, one draw).

Rivalry Hijinks: Timbers tease the Sounders before match (video)

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PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) The salvos are being launched well before Sunday’s rivalry game between the Portland Timbers and the Seattle Sounders.

It will be the 100th meeting between the two Pacific Northwest teams, dating back to a rainy May day in 1975 when both teams were in the North American Soccer League.

The Timbers put out a mock-documentary about the rivalry Tuesday, poking fun at Seattle’s traffic, the departure of the SuperSonics and even Clint Dempsey‘s ill-fated attempt at rap. It points out that Portland won its MLS Cup championship before the Sounders got theirs.

[ MORE: Rooney’s proposed DC move has good precedence ]

Despite the chiding, the Sounders rule the all-time series 50-35-14 across all competitions. There have been many memorable (or notorious) moments, including the U.S. Open Cup match in 2008 when Seattle’s Roger Levesque mimicked chopping down a tree after scoring on Portland’s field, drawing the ire of fans.

The mockumentary came after the Sounders set up a special (and more serious) website to commemorate the 100th meeting, highlighting mostly Seattle’s triumphs, calling it the “most important soccer rivalry in the U.S.”

Sunday’s match features a pair of teams had appeared headed in different directions.

The Timbers, after losing the first five games of the season (all on the road), have won three straight, including last weekend’s 1-0 victory at San Jose.

“We’ve been building exactly for these type of matches,” Portland coach Giovanni Savarese said. “Once you build the mentality, once you build the group that wants to play together, we go (in the game) with an idea. But the important thing is, throughout the match, the guys have to be mature and be able to achieve a good result.”

The Sounders were struggling with just one victory win this season for last place in the Western Conference, but got a big boost with a 2-1 victory against Toronto on the road Wednesday night. The two teams have met in the MLS Cup finals the past two years.

There’s a twist to this Mother’s Day match: It will NOT be the first of the annual Cascadia Cup competition.

The Cascadia Cup, invented by fans in 2004, goes to the winner of a three-way rivalry with the Vancouver Whitecaps. It is traditionally awarded on points.

But this season the schedule between the three teams is unbalanced. So the Cascadia Cup Council decided in March that this first match between the Sounders and Timbers would not count. Portland is the defending Cascadia Cup champion.

It will be Savarese’s first rivalry match. He joined the Timbers in the offseason after the team parted ways with Caleb Porter.

“For me to have the fortune to be here at this moment, for this game, I’m a lucky person,” Savarese said, “because I understand the importance of the match and I understand the importance for the fans and I understand the importance for our season.”

MATCH OF THE WEEK: In addition to the match between the Sounders and the Timbers, Atlanta United visits Orlando City on Sunday. The Lions have won a club-record six straight games, including last Sunday’s 3-1 win over Real Salt Lake.

Afterward, coach Jason Kreis said Orlando needs to guard against complacency.

“It’s about trying to improve week by week. It’s also about staying hungry, because the truth of the matter is we’ve won six games in a row but we haven’t won anything at all,” Kreis said.

They’ll get a challenge in Atlanta, which was unbeaten in seven straight matches, compiling a 7-1-1 record heading into Wednesday night’s game against Sporting Kansas City.

PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Montreal’s Ignacio Piatti has been named the league’s Player of the Week after getting a goal and three assists last weekend in the Impact’s 4-2 victory over the New England Revolution.

The Argentine attacker is tied for the league lead with six total assists this season. He has five goals and is one of just four players this season with a hat trick.

Against the Revolution, he became the third player in team history to reach 100 career MLS games.

ALTIDORE OUT: Toronto forward Jozy Altidore had surgery Tuesday to remove bone fragments from his foot. He is expected to miss four to six weeks. Altidore has five goals in 11 appearances this season. He scored his 50th goal for Toronto in March.

ROONEY RUMOR: The Washington Post reports that D.C. United is in discussions to acquire English striker Wayne Rooney.

Rooney, 32, spent last season with Everton after 13 memorable seasons with Manchester United. He is the top career scorer for England’s national team, with 53 goals in 119 appearances from 2003 to 2016.

He has a year left on his contract with Everton. The transfer window opens July 10.

MLS Three Things: Portland, Atlanta stay hot; Galaxy not-so-much

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Big names young and old were part of Saturday night’s late MLS scoreboard, with Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Ola Kamara, Ezequiel Barco, and Diego Valeri all featuring in the scoring.

[ MORE MLS: NY is Red, Piatti on fire ]

Barco on the board as Five Stripes go first

Ezequiel Barco is one of the most talked about buys in recent history, and Atlanta United’s 19-year-old Argentine is on the board.

Barco scored in his fourth MLS appearance and third start, running into the left side of the box to meet the fine work of Miguel Almiron and turn a shot inside the near post.

Atlanta moves two points clear of NYCFC for first place in the East, and the Five Stripes have played one fewer match than its rival. Its 2.44 points-per-game is nearly a half-point more than the closest competitors (NYCFC, Orlando City, Sporting KC, and LAFC).

Red-hot Valeri makes it three-straight for Savarese’s Portland 

Diego Valeri stayed red hot in artistic fashion, spinning this critical free kick home to record his fourth goal of the season as Portland continued its brutal, away-heavy opening run to the season on Saturday.

The 32-year-old celebrated his birthday week (May 1) by making it four goals and three assists in his last five matches, as Portland has now won three-straight for new boss Gio Savarese.

The Timbers have played just two of eight matches at home, with Saturday providing their first away win. Savarese’s men are 3W-3L-2T. That’s outside the Top Six on goal differential, but two points shy of third as the West works on sorting itself out.

The loss gives coach Mikael Stahre the worst points-per-game in this early season, as the Quakes sit 11th out West.

Galaxy keep allowing (a lot of) goals

Sigi Schmid will be fuming after his LA Galaxy wasted a pair of equalizer when Jose Rodriguez scored a 90th minute goal to give the Houston Dynamo a 3-2 win on Saturday.

The Galaxy have lost four of five matches since their stunning late win on Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s debut.

But Houston will be relieved, picking up a third win in five home matches to move above the red line and into sixth place despite tossing aside two leads. Romell Quioto had a goal and an assist for the Dynamo, the helper coming on Alejandro Fuenmayor’s second minute opener.

For the Galaxy, Giovani Dos Santos had a goal and an assist, Ola Kamara also scored, and Zlatan Ibrahimovic recorded an assist in the loss.

Kamara claimed the blame for Houston’s first goal, and said LA has “to be harder to beat.”

We could show the Marx Brothers’ level bad fortune defending of Houston’s winner, but instead we’ll show some close to vintage Ibrahimovic spatial awareness as he got the hockey assist on Kamara’s late and brief equalizer.

Elsewhere
Sporting KC 1-0 Colorado Rapids
LAFC 1-1 FC Dallas
Columbus Crew 0-0 Seattle Sounders

MLS: Timbers end NYCFC’s unbeaten start; Seattle get 1st win

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Sunday was a very good day for a pair of green-clad Cascadia rivals, the Portland Timbers and Seattle Sounders, as the former put to end the unbeaten start of the best team in MLS, while the latter picked up their first win of 2018…

[ MORE: Saturday’s MLS roundupOther MLS Things — The Archive ]

Portland Timbers 3-0 New York City FC

Through their first seven games, NYCFC were almost inarguably the best team in MLS (aside: how much better is their opening-day walkover of Sporting KC looking these days?), but Patrick Vieira’s side might as well have not even shown up to Providence Park on Sunday. Chalk it up to “it’s only one game,” or “these things happen in MLS,” or “NYC to Portland is a long trip for Russian clubs,” or any other credible rationale you prefer, but they were nothing more than 11 passengers for the whole of 90 minutes.

A quick look at the defending on all three of Portland’s goals…

Vieira was right at halftime, when he said his side was lacking intensity and aggression, and that it’d be nigh impossible to get back into the game in the second half if they continued to play that way. Spoiler: it was, because they did.

Just as I’ll not be rushing to judgment over NYCFC’s no-show performance, I’m not yet buying into the idea that Portland have figured things out defensively on the back of one clean sheet (their first of the season).

Seattle Sounders 3-1 Minnesota United

Speaking of firsts, Seattle are the proud owners of points — as in, more than one point — after putting three past Minnesota but almost fatally failing to kill the game off after going 2-0 up. I’m not sure what any defender in black is doing on this sequence…

Alas, Gustav Svensson, Will Bruin and Jordy Delem were far more clinical with their chances than the Loons…

Still, though, Seattle were completely helpless when it came time to grab control of the game while in a commanding position. Osvaldo Alonso is nowhere near the player he once was, which is a massive problem against teams that set up to counter-attack, as Minnesota did on Sunday. It doesn’t help that Roman Torres and Chad Marshall are the plodding center backs behind him.

The obvious answer to the midfield problem is to play Cristian Roldan deeper, alongside Alonso as they did en route to winning MLS Cup in 2016, but injuries to a number of key attackers have forced him into a de facto no. 10 role for the time being. These things will work themselves out with a bit of time, I suppose.

Full MLS scoreboard

Sporting Kansas City 6-0 Vancouver Whitecaps (Friday) — FULL RECAP
Montreal Impact 3-5 Los Angeles FC — FULL RECAP
Houston Dynamo 5-1 Toronto FC
New York Red Bulls 1-2 Chicago Fire
Columbus Crew SC 2-2 New England Revolution
Orlando City SC 3-2 San Jose Earthquakes
FC Dallas 2-0 Philadelphia Union
Real Salt Lake 3-0 Colorado Rapids
LA Galaxy 0-2 Atlanta United