MLS is Back Championship Game Tuesday Night Preview
What: MLS is Back Tournament Championship Finale
When: 8:30 p.m. EST on ESPN/ESPN Deportes
Where: ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex, in Orlando, FL
Who: Orlando City vs. Portland Timbers
Current Odds at Spreads.ca: Orlando City enters as a slight favourite, which is surprising given Portland's experience and games played to this point.
This is a team accustomed to success. The Timbers have two MLS Cup appearances and one league championship, and will be seeking another on Tuesday night.
Portland‘s road to the championship game wasn’t easy. It was included in the format's so-called "Group of Death." This was mostly due to the presence of Los Angeles FC, which was predicted to emerge victorious. But Portland had other ideas, under the guidance of taskmaster head coach Giovanni Savarese, who led his team to a minor upset and standing now as the favourite to win it all.
Portland's star is Sebastian Blanco, who has been an offensive force for the Timbers. He scored the winning goal in the team's semifinal win over the Philadelphia Union. With three goals and a tournament-leading five assists, so far, Blanco is a strong contender for tournament MVP. He'll probably win it if the Timbers take the title.
Prior to this season, Orlando City had never qualified for the MLS playoffs. The perennial also-ran finished 22nd out of 24 teams last season. First-year head coach Oscar Pareja has remade this perpetual laughingstock of a team into one of the most exciting clubs to watch in a very short period of time.
This surprise team is led by former Man U star (and Euro 2016 winner with native Portugal) Luís Carlos Almeida da Cunha, a.k.a. Nani, who must have a big game tonight if the dogs are to be in a position to win. In what was clearly the biggest game in Orlando City's brief MLS history a week ago, Nani was dominant, scoring two goals in Orlando City's 3-1 win over Minnesota in Thursday's semifinal.
Orlando City has enjoyed rare success against Portland in the recent past. In fact, since entering the league in 2015, the Floridians lead the all-time series edge against Timbers, with 3 wins, 1 loss, and 1 draw.
Portland has been the most impressive team in this tournament. Historically, the Timbers are used to big games. Meanwhile, Orlando City was pretty lucky to get past the previous round and may consider themselves fortunate just to be here.
However, many believe that Orlando being the "home team" could be a factor. Games are being played in a closed environment without spectators. But being close to some and used to the heat and humidity of Central Florida could help their chances.
More experience and a proven starting lineup makes Portland the pick to win what should be an entertaining championship game.
For those interested in the total (2.5 goals), the OVER has hit in three of the last four matches between these clubs. Both teams should score here, playing an aggressive style that has been characteristic of much of the MLS is Back tournament.. Over 2.5 is probably the right wager on the total.
Portland Timbers win 2-1.
Graphics Credit: Gabriela Corey