There’s no doubt that over the last five years, the hotbed for soccer in the United States has been firmly situated in the northwest. After recently triumphing at the MLS is Back tournament to win their first silverware of the year, Portland Timbers will resume the regular season looking for continued success.
Before the final of the MLS is Back tournament was played, the MLS had released their revised 2020 regular season schedule. The regular season itself will conclude on November 8 and at that point, we will know which teams have qualified for the postseason MLS Cup Playoffs, scheduled to run from November 20 and culminating on December 12 with the showpiece MLS Cup Final.
During the break in the regular season, the MLS is Back tournament provided plenty of entertainment for soccer fans, not to mention an excellent opportunity for all the competing teams to rediscover their playing rhythm.
As the reigning 2019 MLS Cup champions, Seattle Sounders were amongst the early favorites and they didn’t disappoint, advancing to the knockout stage without too much difficulty. However, they were demolished 4-1 by Los Angeles FC in the Round of 16, making them the leading candidates to triumph.
Nevertheless, consistency is always king in tournaments like this, which is how Orlando City and Portland Timbers made the MLS is Back final, having produced convincing form throughout both the group and knockout stages.
In those knockout stages, Orlando had beaten Montreal Impact, Los Angeles FC, and Minnesota United, booking their place in the final. Meanwhile, the Timbers overcame testing encounters against FC Cincinnati, New York City FC and Philadelphia Union.
Statistically speaking, both teams were evenly matched heading into the MLS is Back tournament final, and while Orlando City dominated 63% of possession, they couldn’t quite match the cutting edge shown by Portland Timbers in the last third of the pitch.
Larrys Mabiala gave Portland the lead in the 27th minute, although Mauricio Pereyra equalized for Orlando City in the 39th minute. In the end, it was Dario Zuparic who scored the winner for the Timbers in the 66th minute and while Orlando had enough chances to tie the game again, Portland held firm to become worthy champions.
Given their success at what turned out to be a thrilling and action-packed tournament, Portland Timbers will now be hungry to taste more important victories. This means that now the MLS regular season is resuming, they will be amongst the football betting favorites to challenge for the MLS Cup this year.
Although local their biggest local rival Seattle Sounders reigned supreme as MLS Cup champions in 2019, Portland Timbers are no strangers to going all the way to the final. Although they lost the 2018 matchup with Atlanta United in 2018, the Timbers won the MLS Cup in 2015, defeating Columbus Crew 2-1 in the final after a spectacular comeback season.
Looking ahead, it’s hard to imagine Portland wasting their opportunity to build on the recent MLS is Back triumph, which also earned them a place in the 2021 CONCACAF Champions League. Without any doubt, exciting times lay ahead for the Timbers.