This time it can’t end in a draw.
For the second time in four days, LAFC will meet the Portland Timbers at Banc of California Stadium. Sunday’s MLS game ended in at scoreless tie, but there will be a winner Wednesday at the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup.
Though it’s the same team, LAFC coach Bob Bradley said the knockout game will be a different challenge.
“We have to play them under very different circumstances; it’s a Cup game and it’s a night game,” Bradley said. “Those are some big differences.”
On the other hand, LAFC goalkeeper Tyler Miller said he thinks the similarities between the two games may be clearer than the differences. Miller’s performance Sunday was instrumental in earning LAFC a point. He denied Diego Valeri a goal in the fifth minute, then took the ball from his feet in the closing minutes to preserve the shutout.
“I expect a tough game,” Miller said. “No matter whether it’s an elimination game or a league game, it’s two teams that have certain styles of play and neither of us are going to go away from that just because it’s an elimination game. You can’t change how you play because you’re scared; you’re always going to lose when you play scared and try to change too much.”
The Timbers played Sunday’s game with five defenders, allowing LAFC to control possession without allowing many scoring opportunities. Bradley said he wasn’t sure whether Portland would employ the same formation, but was confident that the Timbers would be effective defensively either way.
“We’ve watched them play all their games,” Bradley said. “They play more often with four at the back but they played Atlanta with five so we weren’t caught off guard. They’re a good team; they have 14 games in a row where they haven’t lost and I think their way of playing is pretty clear: They’re strong defensively, they’re good in transition. That’s the kind of game you expect. Whether they put five at the back or four at the back, the way they go about things doesn’t change. However they go about things, we’ll be prepared.”
This will be the first U.S. Open Cup encounter between LAFC and another MLS team. LAFC beat Fresno FC (fourth round) and Sacramento Republic (round of 16) of the United Soccer League. Wednesday’s winner will play either the Houston Dynamo or Sporting Kansas City for the right to play in the final.