Timbers thwart LAFC in MLS group decider

Miami (AFP) – Jeremy Ebobisse scored a late equaliser as the Portland Timbers snatched a 2-2 draw with Los Angeles FC to avoid a knockout-round clash with Seattle in Major League Soccer’s restart tournament on Thursday.

Paris-born striker Ebobisse headed home in the 81st minute for the Timbers after Los Angeles failed to deal with a corner from substitute Diego Valeri.

Ebobisse’s leveller means Portland qualify as winners of Group F, giving them what looks to be an easier assignment in the last 16, where they will play surprise package FC Cincinnati.

Los Angeles meanwhile face a daunting last-16 game against reigning MLS Cup champions Seattle in Orlando next Monday. 

It was a frustrating night for Los Angeles coach Bob Bradley, who had seen his team recover after conceding a goal to Jaroslaw Niezgoda after only seven minutes.

Bradley Wright-Phillips and Mark-Anthony Kaye had netted in the 36th and 40th minutes to put Los Angeles 2-1 up and on course to leapfrog Portland as group winners.

Earlier, the already-eliminated Los Angeles Galaxy ended Houston Dynamo’s hopes of progressing from Group F after a late penalty converted by Cristian Pavon.

Pavon’s 90th-minute spot-kick clinched a 1-1 draw for Galaxy and denied Houston a win which would have sealed a berth in the knockout rounds.

Instead, the draw sent New York City FC into the last 16 as one of the four best third-placed teams from Group A.

Houston appeared to be firmly on course for the second round after Darwin Quintero’s 17th-minute free-kick bamboozled Galaxy goalkeeper David Bingham from 25 yards.

But with victory beckoning, disaster struck when Honduran international Maynor Figueroa was adjudged to have hauled down Diedie Traore to concede a penalty.

Argentinian star Pavon made no mistake from the spot to send Houston crashing out.

“We’re extremely, extremely disappointed with the result,” Houston defender Zarek Valentin said afterwards. 

“We’re gutted, and we should be. It’s always difficult to give up a goal so late in the game.”

In Thursday’s other game, the Vancouver Whitecaps advanced from Group B after a 2-0 win that ended Chicago Fire’s campaign.

Yordy Reyna and Cristian Dajome scored the goals which sent Vancouver through.

The “MLS is Back” tournament is being staged at a single location in Orlando, Florida after a four-month shutdown due to the coronavirus pandemic.

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