As the group stage comes to a close for Group F of the MLS Is Back Tournament, LAFC will face the Portland Timbers for their group stage finale on Thursday. LAFC and the Timbers are atop of the table and seek to advance to the knockout stage.

LAFC Playing Shorthanded

LAFC has been playing without its best player, Carlos Vela, who opted out of the tournament. Despite missing its superstar, LAFC has had no trouble scoring, with forward Diego Rossi tallying five goals in the first two games since the return and four of them came against LA Galaxy.

On the other hand, they have been struggling defensively. They had a slow start in both of the previous matches and did not offer up many opportunities to score. They have lost possession and displayed lethargic plays in midfield, which they need to avoid doing against the Timbers.

LAFC has won both of the last two matches in which they faced the Portland Timbers.

Timbers Already Advancing

The Timbers already have secured a place in the tournament’s knockout round of 16 after winning their first two games at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Florida. Although the match against LAFC on Thursday might seem meaningless since they are proceeding to the next round, coach Giovanni Savarese wants to win Group F decidedly and does not take any games for granted.

“I can guarantee you that the Portland Timbers are going to go for the three points,” Savarese said. “We want a win. We don’t want a tie.”

Portland showed great defensive efforts in the first two games. They have only allowed two goals in the tournament, both after the 85th minute. The conceded goal against Galaxy came when they were down a man but played well defensively with only 10 men. Against the Houston Dynamo, the goal allowed was a penalty kick.

Key Factors

The Portland Timbers have been a very physical and tough team. Both of their previous matches have produced a red card and plenty of yellow cards.

Dario Zuparic received a red card in the 75th minute when playing against the Galaxy, and the Timbers received two more yellow cards earlier.

Forward Jeremy Ebobisse has been the key player to their offense, scoring a goal in each of the first two contests. They also have no injuries entering the game on Thursday, and players are mentally healthy as well. They are treating each game like a final.

Silver Linings for LAFC

From the two previous games, LAFC proved that they are capable of providing goals even without Carlos Vela and Adama Diomande with their new signing of Bradley Wright-Philips. Despite the recent defensive struggles, players were confident and ready to overcome the obstacles.

Coach Bob Bradley pointed out what the players needed to work on and stays positive that they have not given away clear opportunities on goal.

Prediction

LAFC vs. Portland Timbers will be a very close game, and both teams will seek the crown to be first in their group. However, the Timbers seem to be doing better and have the better team.

The Portland Timbers will get the win and stand on atop of the table with nine points. They know how LAFC plays and will be able to lead the game to their advantage.

The Timbers do not have any injuries and proved that they are strong on the defensive end as well. Their winning mentality this season will take them far.