MLS Final Picks: Orlando City vs. Portland Timbers
Orlando City (Group A winner) vs. Portland Timbers (Group F winner)
When: Tuesday, August 11, at 8 p.m.
Where: ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex, Bay Lake, Fla.
Point Spread: Orlando 0/Portland 0
Moneyline: Orlando +155/Portland +155/Draw +240
Total: Over 2.5 (-150)/Under 2.5 (+110)
(Soccer betting lines available at Intertops)
Last Time Out:
Orlando defeated Minnesota 3-1; Portland knocked off Philadelphia 2-1.
The sides drew 1-1 on July 18, 2019, at Providence Park in Portland, Ore.
About the Matchup:
It’s the finals of the MLS tournament, with a spot in the CONCACAF Champions League and a trophy to the winner. Orlando City has never won any silverware or competed in a continental competition before, making this easily the biggest game that Orlando has ever played in its brief history. Little was expected of the Lions before this tournament, but Orlando has gotten better every time out and has already sent home some of the top teams in the field, including Los Angeles FC.
Portland has been here before in other competitions, as it represented the Western Conference in the 2018 MLS Cup final, which the Timbers lost to Atlanta United. The Timbers’ makeup has changed since that failure, but Giovanni Savarese and multiple players remember that failure all too well. Can Portland fix what went wrong in that championship match and earn a return to the CCL, or is this finally Orlando’s time to finish the storybook run and claim its first trophy?
Oscar Pareja continues to push all the right buttons for the Lions. Orlando City once again took control of the match early and never let its opponent get back in it during the semifinal win over Minnesota. This time, it was their biggest name of all doing the most damage. Nani had already been playing some of his best soccer during his Orlando career in this tournament, but the Portuguese star really came through against Minnesota, scoring a pair of first-half goals to put Orlando on the front foot and allow the Lions to dictate the pace for the rest of the match.
This time, Orlando will face a squad that’s content to sit back and let the match come to them, which means that the Lions will have to commit to playing a low-scoring game or pushing Chris Mueller forward to try to open Portland up. Orlando has shown the flexibility to play either way and has the better goalkeeper in Pedro Gallese, so the Lions can afford to take a few more chances. Besides, Orlando has been playing with house money since the quarterfinals. Nobody expected the Lions to get here, and they’ve looked more confident every time they’ve stepped on the pitch.
Nobody is shocked that Nani is having an excellent tournament for Orlando City. Virtually everyone has been surprised at the play of Portland’s Jeremy Ebobisse, who has made himself the Timbers’ most important offensive weapon by scoring four goals despite being one of the men coming off the bench for Giovanni Savarese.
Like Orlando, Portland is a team built around its midfielders and wings, as the Timbers are led by Diego Chara and Diego Valeri in the midfield and Sebastian Blanco on the wing. Chara and Valeri have ensured that few attacks get to a shaky back line, while Blanco has been nothing short of sensational in the attack, scoring three goals and setting up five others.
The one worry for Portland is that Orlando City has been a problematic opponent for the Timbers over the years. Since the Lions moved up to MLS, Portland has only beaten Orlando once, taking three defeats and last year’s draw. History worked in the Timbers’ favor during the semifinal win over Philadelphia, but now, there’s a good chance that history could work against them.
Dan’s Best Bets:
In a championship match, things usually go one of two ways. Both teams hunker down for the entirety of the event, and it ends up a 1-0 game, or it ends up a wide-open match that sees both sides find the goal. I’m banking on the latter here. I think both of these teams have the ability to find holes in the defense, and Portland’s backline does not inspire confidence at the moment. The Timbers have shut out none of their six opponents at Disney, and with how well Orlando is playing, I don’t think that changes.
So I’m going to play Orlando and both teams to score. Portland is the better side on paper, but something is happening with this Orlando team in this tournament. The Lions are playing free and loose, and Pareja is making all of the right moves. I think Orlando has just enough to get it done one more time and think the Lions and both to score offers great value at +320.
I’d also take the second half to produce more goals at even money. If one team is behind, they’ll have to press in the second half, and that could mean an open net to shoot at on the other end. I’d expect a single goal in the first half and two or more to come after.
Dan’s Score Prediction:
Going against the more talented team has worked for me before, so I’m going to try it again here and bank on what Orlando has done in the bubble. I think Orlando puts it all together one final time and ends up completing the storybook run to the trophy. Give me the Lions to top the Timbers by a 2-1 count at +950.