Welcome to your match thread for a Tuesday night MLS is Back final match-up between Orlando City (2-1-2, 8 points in MLS play, 4-0-2 in MLS is Back) and the Portland Timbers (3-1-1, 10 points in MLS play, 4-0-2 in MLS is Back) at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex. It’ll likely be the only scheduled meeting between the cross-conference opponents this season.
The Lions are 3-1-1 against the Timbers since joining Major League Soccer. The most recent meeting came last season at Providence Park, with a largely second-choice Orlando lineup playing to a 1-1 draw against a mainly full-strength Portland side on July 18, 2019. The Lions were out-shot 26-2 but managed the road point anyway, thanks to a Santiago Patino goal that was offset by a late Jeremy Ebobisse equalizer.
The last time the teams met in Orlando saw Orlando City rally with three goals in seven minutes to erase a 2-0 deficit and win, 3-2. Chris Mueller, Sacha Kljestan, and Dom Dwyer scored in the 80th, 82nd, and 87th minutes, respectively, to overcome a hole created by goals from Portland’s Diego Valeri and Bill Tuiloma.
The Lions’ only loss in the series came at Providence Park in a game they’d rather forget, as they ended up getting two men sent off on the way to a 3-0 loss to Portland in 2018. Goals from Valeri (twice) and Darren Mattocks got Timber Joey’s chainsaw heated up. Jonathan Spector got sent off for two yellow cards and PC saw a straight red.
In 2016, Orlando City thumped the defending MLS champions, 4-1, with four different Lions scoring — Seb Hines, Kaká, Kevin Molino, and Brek Shea. Joe Bendik stopped a Fanendo Adi penalty kick but Jack McInerney’s late goal spoiled the shutout. Orlando won the inaugural MLS meeting in 2015 at Providence Park, 2-0, with Cyle Larin scoring the first of his league rookie record 17 goals, chesting home a wicked cross from Molino. Kaká scored the second goal from the spot to provide the final margin after Carlos Rivas drew the first penalty in Orlando City’s MLS history.
Orlando is coming off a 3-1 win over Minnesota United — the Lions’ first win over the Loons. Nani scored twice and helped set up Benji Michel’s insurance goal in stoppage time. Portland is coming off a 2-1 win over the Philadelphia Union in the other semifinal, but the Timbers played a day earlier, so they enter with 24 more hours of rest and recovery.
While Orlando City was winning Group A, Portland was finishing atop Group F, with a 2-0-1 mark. Many pundits had deemed Group F the tournament’s so-called “group of death” due to the presence of both Los Angeles clubs, along with the Houston Dynamo, but Group A put three teams in the knockout round and two teams in the semifinals. That said, Portland has knocked out the other two Group A knockout qualifiers, so the Lions will hope that the third time is the charm in representing the group.
Portland is dangerous in the middle of the park, with Diego Chara’s crunching tackles winning back the ball and igniting the offense. The Timbers have two players — tournament MVP candidate Sebastian Blanco and Diego Valeri — capable of playing in crafty balls to attacking teammates the way Molino did for Minnesota in the semifinals. Ebobisse has been sharp in front of goal. The Lions will need to be as sharp defensively and in possession as they were against LAFC.
As is usually the case, the Lions will need to deal with the two Diegos to get a result against Portland. Valeri is one of the most creative and dangerous players in Major League Soccer, and slowing him down will require a big game from the back line, the defensive midfield, and goalkeeper Pedro Gallese. If he comes in fresh off the bench after halftime (a possibility) he’ll be that much more difficult to deal with. On the other end of the pitch, Orlando City will have to find ways around midfield stopper Chara. The Colombian brings a lot of bite to Portland’s midfield with heavy challenges, good breakup play, and quick turnovers that can lead to offensive chances.
“They have a great midfielders, a great team,” Uri Rosell said at Monday’s press conference. “They’ve been together for a long time and that always helps. But for us, we have to do our best. We know that it’s going to be a very difficult game. It’s going to be a battle for us, the midfielders, but (also for) the rest of the team is going to be very difficult. But we believe in ourselves and we are happy to have this opportunity, because, playing a final is always a blessing.”
Orlando should have about everyone but Dwyer healthy enough to play. Yimmi Chara, brother of Diego, did not play in Portland’s previous match and his availability is unknown.
Mandatory Match #Content
- Our Intelligence Report provides more info about the Timbers from Grant Little of SB Nation’s Portland blog, Stumptown Footy.
- This week’s PawedCast includes our key match-ups and our score predictions and we chat with Stumptown Footy’s Eddy Prugh about what we can expect from Portland.
Orlando City (4-2-3-1)
Goalkeeper: Pedro Gallese.
Defenders: Joao Moutinho, Robin Jansson, Antonio Carlos, Ruan.
Defensive Midfielders: Sebas Mendez, Uri Rosell.
Attacking Midfielders: Nani, Mauricio Pereyra, Chris Mueller.
Forwards: Tesho Akindele.
Portland Timbers (4-2-3-1)
Goalkeeper: Steve Clark.
Defenders: Jorge Villafaña, Dario Zuparic, Larrys Mabiala, Chris Duvall.
Defensive Midfielders: Eryk Williamson, Diego Chara.
Attacking Midfielders: Sebastian Blanco, Diego Valeri, Marvin Loria.
Forward: Jeremy Ebobisse.
REF: Ismail Elfath.
AR1: Kathryn Nesbitt.
AR2: Kyle Atkins.
4TH: Joe Dickerson.
VAR: Allen Chapman.
AVAR: Logan Brown.
How to Watch
Match Time: 8:30 p.m. ET.
Venue: ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex — Orlando, FL.
TV: ESPN, ESPN Deportes.
Radio: FM 96.9 The Game (English), Acción 97.9 FM and 810 AM (Spanish).
Streaming: WatchESPN, FuboTV.
Enjoy the match! Go City!
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