Portland Timbers won the MLS is Back tournament, beating the Orlando Lions in the finals with 2-1. After tough seven weeks, the Portland managed to snatch its second trophy ever.
“For us this is going to be a great memory,” Giovanni Savarese, Timbers coach said. “Who knows if there will be another tournament like this, but we’re proud to give another trophy to Portland.”
After seven exciting and tough matches, Timbers managed to not only win the trophy but earn $300,000 and what is more important clinch a spot in the 2021 CONCACAF Champions League.
As always, Diego Valeri’s presence was crucial, and Portland’s playmaker was involved in both goals of his team.
The first one came after 27 minutes when Larrys Mabiala scored after Valeri’s free-kick to give his team a lead. Valeri’s corner-kick in the 66th minute led to another goal. Eryk Williamson received the ball in the box, took a shot, and Dario Zuparic changed the ball’s trajectory, beating Orlando’s goalkeeper, Pedro Gallese.
Timbers had far less ball possession than the rivals, but their attacks and actions were far more dangerous than Orlando’s. Portland held the ball in 36% of the time, recording six shots on goal, compared to just one of the Lions. From those six tries, Gallese stopped four, who was pretty good in Tuesday’s matchup.
The only score for Orlando came in the 39th minute, when Mauricio Pereyra converted Nani’s assist to equalize the result.
Orlando was the biggest surprise of the tournament as they reached the finals after finishing 11th from 12 teams in the East conference last year. Many are suggesting that the switch at the coaching position, once Oscar Pareja replaced James O’Connor. The Colombian introduced many changes, which would provide good results so far.
“We improved as a group, as a club and let’s be honest, we must accept we are not the same team as before. And you all know that. You all saw our games, you have seen this final, you’ve seen the way we’ve been playing and the way every team who plays against us behaves against us,” Nani said at the press conference following the game.
Orlando is a hard-working side now, that relies upon strict tactics and a defensive-minded approach. Once they score and get the lead, it is almost impossible to make a comeback.
Meanwhile, Portland had the toughest path towards the title. They met with both teams from LA, Galaxy, and FC, as well as Houston Dynamo. After that, Savarese’s side met with FC Cincinnati in the round of 16, NYCFC in the quarterfinals and Philadelphia Union in the semis.
Portland scored at least two goals in all matches except the one against Cincinnati when they advanced following a penalty shootout. Once again, Timbers’ attack brought the edge and happened to be the main weapon. Valeri, Blanco, Ebobisse and newly-arrived Jaroslaw Niezgoda were superb when needed, covering up all the mistakes of the backline, and crushing the rival’s morale.
The MLS championship continues in two weeks. Portland has a big game coming up against the Seattle Sounders, and there is no time for them to celebrate too much. That match is scheduled for August 23.
Meanwhile, the Lions will have a state derby in Miami against Inter. It seems that it won’t take long before these two sides develop a rivalry similar to the one FC and Galaxy have in LA. The match vs. Inter is set for August 22.
Nikola Velickovic is a sports journalist who loves to write and read on all sports. Nikola contributes both news updates and functions as a sports breaking news writer at WagerBop.