LAFC forced to settle for draw with Portland, finishes 7th in Western Conference standings – Press Enterprise

LOS ANGELES — Entering the 90th minute, the Los Angeles Football Club had a one-goal lead over the Portland Timbers and a grasp of fifth place in the Western Conference standings.

By the time referee Alan Kelly blew the final whistle, LAFC didn’t have the victory, thanks to a 90th-minute goal by Portland’s Jorge Villafana and had fallen to seventh place in the conference on the final day of the MLS regular season.

With Sunday’s 1-1 draw against Portland, LAFC (9-8-4, 31 points, 1.48 PPG) will have to open the MLS Playoffs on the road against second-seeded Seattle. The date and time will be announced at a later date.

“We have a good team,” LAFC coach Bob Bradley said. “We have to prove it in the playoffs. We are not happy with the inconsistency. We are not happy with where we finished in the standings. I think we have a better team than that and there’s no reason to talk … There are things that happened this year, but you know that I’ve not spent any time ever talking about them or using any of that as an excuse.

“It’s on us when we show up every day to push ourselves, see the things that need to get better and become a top team, or continue as a top team. And we’ve hurt ourselves this year.”

After Villafana’s goal, LAFC fell to sixth place in the standings, but Colorado pulled off a 93rd-minute win against Houston, which bumped LAFC down to seventh.

Major League Soccer staggered Sunday’s schedule to have all of the Eastern Conference games start at one time and the Western Conference games later in the day.

“I think we had some good moments in the game,” Bradley said. “Good start. … A number of chances to get the second goal, including a very good chance that we created for Brian (Rodriguez). Jordan’s (Harvey) pass back to him should be on the ground and we can’t finish.

“And then in transition, they (Portland) are able to score. I don’t think that we do a good enough job dealing with things as they come forward, and we get sucked over toward the ball and Villafana is able to score at the back post.”

LAFC started fast as Carlos Vela, who would eventually play the full 90 minutes, opened the scoring in the fifth minute.

Unfortunately for LAFC, the second goal went missing. Diego Rossi hit the post twice, Vela had a shot hit the cross bar and late in the second half, Brian Rodriguez’s opportunity from approximately 10 yards out went directly to Portland goalkeeper Steve Clark.

Clark then started the counterattack, which ended with Villafana’s goal and the loss of the full three points for LAFC.

“It certainly means that you keep them in the game,” Bradley said of the missed chances. “But the ability to get the second goal and if for some reason on a given night you have to know how to finish the game in other ways. That’s, once again, the lesson. … Late goals have hurt us.”

For the first half, at least, LAFC was the sharper team as Vela looked as comfortable as he has since his injury.

His minutes had been increasing since he returned to action Oct. 25. He played 20 minutes in his return, followed by a 30-minute stint on Oct. 28 and the first half of Wednesday’s game with San Jose.

Now with the upcoming break, Bradley expects to have an even sharper Vela for what they hope is a long playoff run.

“When Carlos is there, when as many guys as possible are fit, sharp and good form, we still believe that we have a team that can win MLS Cup, and as we get to this time of the year, we think we are getting closer,” Bradley said.