Given the number of changes to the starting XI, it was always going to be difficult for the Portland Timbers to pull off a result away to LAFC in the US Open Cup on Tuesday.
In the end, Portland went down 2-0 at Banc of California Stadium thanks to goals from Cristian Arango and Mamadou Fall either side of half-time.
But the scoreline only tells half the story, with the Timbers attempting 16 shots to LAFC‘s 14, with six of them forcing saves from Black and Gold stopper Maxime Crepeau. The Canadian goalkeeper’s presence between the sticks was emblematic of how strong a side LA head coach Steve Cherundolo fielded on the night.
Portland, meanwhile, rested a number of key figures, with the likes of Sebastian Blanco, Yimmi Chara, and Cristhian Paredes only coming on from the bench to try and salvage the game. Victor Griffith was among the players to come up from Portland Timbers 2, while David Ayala and Justin Rasmussen have only managed limited minutes in MLS play this season.
Despite the round of 32 defeat, Timbers head coach Giovanni Savarese left California happy with the efforts of his patchwork side.
“If you watch the match, you will see how well we played,” he said. “A good performance from a lot of new players that haven’t trained enough with us, guys that came from T2 like (Victor) Griffith and Julian Bravo.
“Nathan (Fogaça) that is part of the first team now. David Ayala who hasn’t played a lot of minutes. I thought very good performances today, and I think it says a lot when the man of the match is the goalkeeper on the other side.”
Another first-team regular to come off the bench was Jaroslaw Niezgoda, who has three goals in 11 MLS appearances so far this season. The Polish striker came on in the 67th minute to give Portland more attacking impetus but in the 88th, he left the field with an apparent groin injury.
The Timbers are already short up front with Felipe Mora sidelined due to a knee injury, so supporters were understandably concerned about seeing Niezgoda limp out.
Savarese is still in the dark about the severity of the injury, but is hopeful of having Niezgoda back for Portland’s home tie against Sporting Kansas City at the weekend.
“It seems that he pulled — a little bit — his groin,” he said. “He felt a little something and decided to come out. Now it will be evaluated if it’s difficult or severe. So we now have to look at it and hopefully, he can bounce back and be ready for this weekend.”