Los Angeles Football Club has one of the hottest players in Major League Soccer. The Portland Timbers have one of the hottest teams.
Now the two sides will put each other to the test — twice in four days.
That’s the challenge LAFC faces when they host Portland at Banc of California Stadium, first in league play Sunday at 3 p.m., then in a Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup quarterfinal Wednesday night.
The Timbers are unbeaten in their past 13 matches, having won 10 and drawn three, and beat LAFC 2-1 when the teams met in Portland on May 19. But since then, LAFC’s attack has been boosted by forward Adama Diomande, who played for coach Bob Bradley previously in Norway. In just 473 minutes of MLS play this season, Diomande has scored nine goals.
“I’ve enjoyed working with him,” Bradley said. “He’s a good teammate, he has a good way of moving as a striker. He’s shown that he’s got great qualities and I’m really excited that he’s been able to come here and earn everybody’s respect so quickly.”
Bradley praised Portland’s play — “They have a lot of different dimensions. They’re organized, they’re good on set pieces, they’re very good on the counter,” he said — and said it's the Timbers’ ability to counter-attack that most worries him. His possession-minded team must be prepared when it loses the ball, he said.
“They’re a team that can absorb pressure and really hit you on the counter,” Bradley said. “We like to control games. Our ability when we are pushing forward to make decisions on the ball, getting organized so they don’t turn into dangerous counters, that part’s growing but it’s hard for all teams to do.
“A team that attacks has to understand that doesn’t always win you the game.”
For LAFC, four points behind FC Dallas in the Western Conference, it’s an opportunity to keep pace in the standings.
On July 3, Bradley’s team held a 2-0 lead over Houston in the fourth minute of injury time, knowing a victory would put it on top of the standings, but couldn’t hold on and drew 2-2. Portland’s recent run, meanwhile, has put it in fifth place, nine points back, but with two games in hand over LAFC and three over Dallas.