The MLS is Back Tournament in Orlando has largely gone off without a hitch. While FC Dallas and Nashville SC had to be disqualified early, the league hasn’t run into any further issues over the course of the monthlong event.
MLS’ restart event will finally come to a close on Tuesday when Orlando City SC will meet the Portland Timbers in the final. Frankly, it’s safe to say that this is a matchup nobody could have seen coming. Both clubs were given +2800 odds to win the tournament when odds were initially released at MLS betting sites, which put them among the true long shots. LAFC (+350), Toronto FC (+900), and Atlanta United (+1100) were the early favorites.
Portland wound up storming its way through Group E, which featured both LA clubs and the Houston Dynamo. The Timbers piled up seven points from their three matches with six total goals. Portland then got past FC Cincinnati on penalties in the round of 16 before a 3-1 triumph over New York City FC in the quarterfinals. The Timbers then doubled up the Philadelphia Union 2-1 to reach the final.
Orlando City finished tied atop Group A on seven points with Philadelphia, but ultimately won the group thanks to a superior goal differential. The “hosts” edged past Montreal 1-0 in the round of 16 before a thrilling win over LAFC on penalties in the quarters. Orlando then pulled the upset with a 3-1 win over Minnesota United in the semifinal round.
Orlando and Portland will do battle in the final at 8:30 pm Eastern on Tuesday night.
Portland Grinding Out Results
Both Portland and Orlando have scored at least once in every tournament game to this point. That’s particularly surprising for Orlando City, who was held to a scoreless draw by Real Salt Lake back in February before losing 2-1 to the Colorado Rapids a week later before the season went on hiatus. The Timbers, meanwhile, lost to Minnesota United 3-1 before a narrow 1-0 win over expansion Nashville SC on March 8.
Portland making an unlikely run to a final isn’t exactly unprecedented. The Timbers finished as MLS Cup runners-up just two years ago despite finishing just fifth place in the Western Conference regular-season table.
The Timbers have hardly been dominant. They’ve won just one of their six games to this point by more than a one-goal margin, but they have been able to get the job done. Jeremy Ebobisse has found the back of the net four times through six games in the tournament, while Sebastian Blanco has been directly involved in eight of the team’s 12 total goals. No player, other than LAFC’s Diego Rossi, has been more impactful to his team’s success than Blanco thus far.
Orlando City’s Cinderella Run
Orlando City have been one of MLS’ least successful sides since joining the league several years ago, but this will be the club’s first shot at a major trophy since entering MLS in 2015. The Lions haven’t yet qualified for the MLS Cup Playoffs, and they haven’t finished higher than 14th in the league table, either.
Oscar Pareja’s side has been among the most forward-thinking in the MLS is Back field, and the results have been there. The Lions’ fullbacks, Joao Moutinho and Ruan, get forward as well as any duo in the top flight. Nani, who led the team with 12 goals last season, has kept his good form since the tournament began. Chris Mueller has also been an incredibly dangerous presence in front of goal, but his status is in doubt after injuring his shoulder earlier in the tourney. Nani and Mueller have each scored three goals to this point.
Orlando City vs. Portland Timbers MLS Pick
While Orlando have been able to put constant pressure on opposing defenses by aggressively getting forward, that strategy is always a double-edged sword. Moutinho and Ruan pushing up the field leaves their own defense a bit vulnerable to counter-attacking sides. While it’s paid off for Pareja’s team so far, employing that strategy with someone as dangerous as Blanco on the other side is inherently risky.
If Mueller misses this game or is limited due to injury, that’s a pretty huge blow to Orlando’s attack. That puts even more pressure on Nani to get the job done. While the Portuguese veteran has been more than up to the challenge to this point, it just seems silly that Portland is a betting underdog in this game.
Orlando have been impressive, but this is still a side that wasn’t expected to seriously challenge for much of anything this season.
Betting on the Timbers to win the game outright at +175 on the moneyline represents a tremendous value. Going all-in on the attacking style is a must if Orlando have a real chance to win, but Portland is a disciplined, established side that know how to strike on the counter. Take the Timbers to win the MLS is Back Tournament.
Taylor Smith has been a staff writer with GamblingSites.org since early 2017. Taylor is primarily a sports writer, though he will occasionally dabble in other things like politics and entertainment betting. His primary specialties are writing about the NBA, Major League Baseball, NFL and domestic and international soccer. Fringe sports like golf and horse racing aren’t exactly his cup of tea, bu ...
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