At least Los Angeles FC won't have to deal with Lionel Messi this weekend.
After a 3-1 home loss to Messi and Inter Miami last Sunday, LAFC (11-8-7, 40 points) will travel to the Pacific Northwest to meet the Portland Timbers (7-11-9, 30 points) Saturday night.
"It felt similar to a playoff game at the beginning, but I think that is what we expected," LAFC coach Steve Cherundolo said of the match against Miami. "We created a plethora of chances, but we just weren't effective. That was the difference."
Defending MLS Cup champion LAFC has lost its past two matches to drop into a tie for third place with Real Salt Lake in the Western Conference.
"Eight games left (in the regular season)," LAFC midfielder Ilie Sanchez said. "First goal is to get into those playoffs. Second goal is to finish as high as we can. ... And the third goal (is) to try to have a long, long run in the playoffs."
Los Angeles' Carlos Vela has scored seven goals in nine regular-season matches against the Timbers in his MLS career, only tallying more against the rival L.A. Galaxy (10).
The Timbers remain in 12th place in the West, four points out of a playoff spot. They are 1-1-1 under interim coach Miles Joseph, including rallying for a 2-2 draw last Saturday at Seattle. Dairon Asprilla and Evander scored three minutes apart midway through the second half after a Sounders player was ejected, leaving them with 10 men.
"I think it's important for our club," Joseph said of the point earned on the road. "It's a huge rivalry and we enjoy coming up here and getting points."
As for the Timbers' playoff possibilities?
"Everything's right there to play for," Joseph said. "I told the guys before the game (in Seattle) that with last week's win (over Real Salt Lake), basically we put our foot in the door, and then get some points (last Saturday) and now we're going to start to kick that door open for the playoffs."
LAFC has a 7-7-5 record in the all-time series against Portland, including a 3-2 victory in the season opener March 4 in Los Angeles with Vela converting a first-half penalty kick.
—Field Level Media