Los Angeles FC’s title defense is yet to get started after its season-opening derby with the LA Galaxy was called off due to adverse weather last week, while the Portland Timbers, who had their game against Sporting Kansas City rearranged due to the elements, claimed a win to get their season up and running. Here’s our LAFC-Portland Timbers prediction and preview.

LAFC vs Portland Timbers: The Quick Hits 

  • The Opta supercomputer has reigning MLS Cup champion LAFC as big favorites for Saturday’s encounter.
  • Portland heads into the clash on the back of a 1-0 home win over Sporting KC.
  • LAFC is seeking a third straight win vs the Timbers in all competitions following a memorable encounter in October.

Match Preview

LAFC might have won its last two meetings with Portland, but prior to those fixtures the Timbers were unbeaten in six straight matches vs LAFC dating back to October 2020 (W3 D3). However, if free bets were available then it might be sensible to place one on LAFC winning, given it has triumphed in all five of its season-opening matches over the franchise’s comparatively brief Major League Soccer history. In league history, only FC Dallas, between 2012 and 2017, has won its first match for six seasons on the bounce.

As well as an eagerness to get its domestic campaign up and running, LAFC will also be keen to head into a Concacaf Champions League meeting with Alajuelense on the back of a victory, yet MLS’ champions over the past six seasons have opened their continental campaigns with a win just once (D1 L4).

This will be the second time the reigning champions open their season against the Timbers, with the Colorado Rapids recording a 3-1 victory over Portland back in 2011 – the Timbers’ first in MLS.

Previous Meeting 

Portland Timbers 1-2 LAFC: Oct. 2, 2022 (MLS Regular Season)

Portland Timbers 1-2 LAFC MLS 2022

These sides last met in the penultimate game of last year’s regular season, with LAFC winning 2-1 in Oregon. The victory came in dramatic fashion with Denis Bouanga netting in the fifth minute of second-half stoppage time after Dairon Asprilla had canceled out Carlos Vela’s opener. Vela had earlier seen an attempt cleared off the line by Claudio Bravo’s head as Portland attempted to cling to a clean sheet, but he curled a sublime finish over Aljaž Ivačič in the 51st minute.

Bravo hit the crossbar in the 71st minute as Portland rallied and its pressure built to Asprilla’s excellent close-range header 10 minutes later, only for Bouanga to weave his way through a parting defense in the dying embers of the match. His deflected finish marked his first goal for LAFC and secured the Supporters’ Shield in the most dramatic of circumstances in the process.

It was a fairly even game statistically. LAFC had nine shots, putting eight of them on target. Portland’s shooting was more erratic, with seven of its 14 attempts hitting the target, though the host did finish with a slightly better xG (1.17 to 1.05).

LAFC ultimately created three big chances – defined as an opportunity from which a player would reasonably be expected to score – to Portland’s one, however. It also edged out the home team on final-third entries (63 to 62), though did have fewer touches in the opposition box (28 to 36). Vela’s goal came from outside the box, however, scoring with a shot that had an xG value of just 0.04.

Recent Form 

There’s no last match to judge for LAFC, but it did win two of five preseason matches, drawing one and losing the other two. Defeats to Real Salt Lake and D.C. United came on either side of a draw with New York City FC, though victories over Toronto FC and the San Diego Loyal followed.

When it comes to competitive outings, LAFC has lost only one of its last seven, winning four of those (not including the MLS Cup final, which was won via penalties after a 3-3 draw).

LAFC has a fantastic record at the BMO Stadium (formerly known as the Banc of California Stadium), too. The club won nine regular-season home games in a row until a 1-0 defeat to Nashville SC on the final day last season.

In its run through the playoffs, LAFC scored nine non-penalty goals – three in each match, from an average non-penalty xG per of 1.9 per game. Essentially, the club was scoring a goal more than would have been anticipated based on the quality of chances created in those matches.

Allowing 0.7 xGA per game in the postseason improved on its regular-season average (1.0) and suggests its defense was trending upwards when it came to limiting the quality of opportunities given up to opponents, though LAFC was only able to keep a clean sheet in a 3-0 dismantling of Austin FC in the Western Conference final. LAFC conceded three goals from attempts inside the area during the MLS Cup final against Philadelphia Union.

Portland, on the other hand, held on against Sporting Kansas City on Monday after Juan Mosquera capitalized on some slack defending to score in the sixth minute – the earliest goal across any games in the opening round.

Portland Timbers 1-0 Sporting KC MLS 2023

The Timbers have now scored in each of their last 21 MLS games, their longest such run in the competition since a streak of 21 matches between June and October 2017. Portland has tallied 34 goals in that time.

Portland won two of its preseason games – against NYCFC and the LA Galaxy – and drew the other 2-2 against Toronto. However, it ended last season poorly with that defeat to LAFC followed by a 3-1 loss to Real Salt Lake, who secured a playoff place at the Timbers’ expense.

The Timbers also struggled on the road towards the back end of last year, winning only once (at Austin FC) from their last five away games in MLS, albeit also drawing against the Columbus Crew. That run was proceeded, however, by a four-game unbeaten streak, which included a 4-4 draw at Minnesota United, a 3-0 win over the rival Seattle Sounders and a 2-2 draw with Nashville.

To miss out on the playoffs for the first time since 2016 was a huge blow for the 2021 MLS Cup runners-up, but Giovanni Savarese will hope that serves as extra motivation at the start of this campaign.

Players to Watch 

LAFC: Carlos Vela

Vela might not be the same player that he was a few years ago, but the Mexican proved he still had plenty in the tank last season. He scored 12 MLS goals and provided as many assists, with only four other players in the league playing a direct part in more goals.

Vela outperformed his non-penalty xG by 1.7, while the former Arsenal forward created 87 chances, ranking him tied for fourth in MLS alongside Lucas Zelarayan. His 12 assists did come from an xA of 9.8, suggesting he benefitted from some above-standard finishing from the players he set up, but the 33-year-old’s influence on LAFC’s attack was enormous – Vela was involved in 159 shot-ending sequences from open play in league play in 2022, more than any of his teammates.

Last season was the first campaign since 2019 – when he scored 36 goals – that he managed over 30 appearances in the league, and he is still one of the competition’s best players on his day.

Carlos Vela LAFC Stats

Portland Timbers: Evander

Offseason acquisition Evander, who joined from Danish club Midtjylland and is formerly of Brazilian Serie A side Vasco da Gama, wasted no time in getting involved on his Timbers debut against SKC.

The Brazilian had 59 touches, ranking behind only Mosquera in Portland’s team, while he attempted 37 passes, completing 28 (75.7%), with 11 of those attempted in the final third. Evander led the Timbers in crosses (four), dribbles (eight), successful dribbles (five) and duels (19), though he only won six. He did lose possession 21 times, two more occasions than any teammate, and conceded the most fouls (four) in the game, yet his nine recoveries were tied for a match high.

Playing in an advanced midfield role, Evander’s next task will be to wield more influence from a creative standpoint. He failed to have a shot or craft a chance, but there were positive signs to build on for the 24-year-old.

With striker Felipe Mora still recovering from a knee injury, the Timbers need scorers elsewhere in their team, and Evander will be one they hope hits the ground running in the U.S.

Evander Portland Timbers

LAFC vs Portland Timbers Prediction

LAFC vs Portland Timbers Prediction

LAFC has won six of its 16 meetings with its Western Conference rivals the Timbers in all competitions, with Portland winning five times.

Opta’s supercomputer has LAFC as a big favorite for this game, though, putting its chances of victory at 57.5%.

Portland is at 18.7% with the draw at 23.8%.

Expect this to be tight, though, with only one of the last eight games between these teams having been settled by a margin of over one goal – that came in LAFC’s 2-0 U.S. Open Cup win in May last year.

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