MLS is Back Tournament Final – Portland Timbers vs. Orlando City SC

Orlando City SC are slight favorites per the MLS odds to lift their first trophy on Tuesday night. The Lions have been the stars of the MLS is Back Tournament. They failed to finish better than seventh in the conference in any of their first five seasons, and they have yet to make it to the MLS Cup Playoffs. However, a little bit of home cooking has done wonders as they have outperformed all expectations in the Florida heat, and a win over the Portland Timbers would be cause for celebration throughout Orlando.




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The Lions have yet to lose a game in Orlando in 2020. They knocked off Inter Miami and New York City FC to punch their ticket to the Round of 16, and they outlasted the Montreal Impact in a defensive slugfest there. In the quarterfinals, Orlando City pulled off the upset of the tournament by forcing penalties late and then converting all five attempts from the spot against favorites Los Angeles FC. That led to a semifinals clash with former manager Adrian Heath and Minnesota United FC, and the Lions won thanks to a first-half brace from Nani.

Meanwhile, Portland has gritted out results in all their matches. The Timbers have allowed at least one goal in every game, but they have done enough on offense to get the win. They knocked off the Houston Dynamo and Los Angeles Galaxy 2-1 in the Group Stage, and they survived a scare from second-year FC Cincinnati in the Round of 16. That was followed up with their best performance of the tournament, a 3-1 victory over NYCFC in the quarterfinals. It appeared that they might be going to extra time with the Philadelphia Union in the semifinals, but an apparent Kacper Przybylko goal was called back for being offsides, allowing the Timbers to escape with a 2-1 win.


Peruvian national Pedro Gallese has been superb in goal for the Lions. Gallese has made a few exceptional saves, and he is the centerpiece of a defense that is performing much better than we saw in 2019. Joao Moutinho is playing well up and down the pitch, and Robin Jansson has been rock solid in the center of Orlando’s defense.

Nani has been sensational over the last month, and he is the key to the Lions’ attack. He has delivered on his promise after coming over from Sporting CP as a Designated Player, and his ability to work himself into space leads to opportunity for him and his teammates. Chris Mueller is playing well too with three goals in this tournament alongside Nani.


Although the Timbers are built to counterattack, the back line has not been that strong. Steve Clark and the defenders have yet to keep a clean sheet, and they would have fared worse if not for Diego Chara. Chara continues to play exceptionally well even though he is on the wrong side of 30, showcasing his talents as the best defensive midfielder in the MLS.

Diego Valeri continues to make magic happen in the midfield. The 2017 MLS MVP has been the maestro of Portland’s attack, and he has two excellent options to distribute the ball to in Sebastian Blanco and Jeremy Ebobisse. Blanco has been arguably the best player of this tournament with three goals and five assists, while Ebobisse has showcased a goal scorer’s touch with four goals in Orlando.


Orlando has been better in the back, but Portland has been more impressive on the attack coming into Tuesday’s final. Chara will be tasked with shutting down Nani, and his play will help give the Timbers their second major trophy.

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