Nani has powered Orlando City SC into the MLS is Back Tournament Final. Photo by @MLS (Twitter)
- The MLS is Back Final is set to kick-off at 8:30 pm EST on Tuesday, August 11
- Which MVP candidate will make a bigger impact for their team in the final — Blanco or Nani?
- Read on for our preview and best bet for the MLS is Back Final here
One month ago when the MLS is Back Tournament kicked off, there was very real concern if the event would actually be completed. Two teams were sent home with too many positive COVID tests, but after only a couple more isolated testing concerns and game postponements early on, the tournament rolled on without issue and has to be considered a success.
With Portland defeating Philadelphia and the hosts Orlando City defeating Minnesota last week, we’re now just one game away from the tournament’s completion and the continuation of a shortened regular season beginning later this week.
The MLS is Back Final is set to kick-off at 8:30 pm EST on Tuesday, August 11 and we’re breaking down the two finalists with our best bet for the match here.
Portland Timbers vs Orlando City SC Odds
|Team||Spread||Moneyline||Total||Odds to Lift Trophy at DraftKings|
|Portland||+0.5 (-182)||+165||O 2.5 -143||+100|
|Orlando||-0.5 +150)||+148||U 2.5 +110||-125|
Odds taken August 10
Blanco Powers Timbers Into Final
The Timbers posted a 2-1-0 record through group stage play, good enough to top Group F over LAFC, Houston and the LA Galaxy. They’ve been spotless in the knockout rounds having advanced past FC Cincinnati winning in penalties after drawing 1-1 in regulation, defeating NYCFC 3-1 and most recently posting a 2-1 win over Philadelphia in the semifinals. Portland held a 2-0 lead late, prior to Philly scoring in the 85th minute. Portland were also helped by a Sergio Santos’ missed PK for the Union at the end of the first half.
— Major League Soccer (@MLS) August 7, 2020
The Timbers have been one of my most exciting teams to watch during this tournament. They often struggled to find offense last season in the later stages of the year, but have now scored at least once in every single game in 2020. That includes both earlier regular-season matches and in all six MLS is Back competitions. Portland has scored multiple goals in 5/6 matches, with 12 goals now scored in the six tournament matches.
The goals have come from five different sources, lead by youngster Jeremy Ebobisse who has four. The 23-year-old has really stepped up in his fourth season, looking to carry on from an 11-goal season in 2019. But the man who’s had the biggest influence on the Timbers’ success in the tournament has to be Sebastian Blanco. The Argentine has three goals and five assists and had assisted on a goal in each of Portland’s first five matches. While he failed to record an assist in the semifinal against Philly, his goal in the 70th minute proved to be the eventual game-winner. Blanco could very end up being the tournament MVP if Portland prevails on Tuesday.
Sebastián Blanco (70′)!
Blanco adds some insurance for the Timbers, who are now 20 minutes away from the #MLSisBack final.
— BetAmerica (@BetAmerica) August 6, 2020
But the Timbers have also gotten contributions from new DP Jaroslaw Niezgoda (2G/1A), a rare goal from Andy Polo, and two goals and three assists from captain Diego Valeri who seems to be settling into his role as a super-sub with the club.
As a neutral, what makes Timbers’ matches exciting is not only their ability to score, but also that they struggle to keep things tight on the backline. They’ve conceded at least once in every match during the tournament and in all but one in 2020 so far. Their lone clean sheet came back in March, at home to expansion side Nashville and if anything, Nashville held the advantage in overall play.
2020 UEFA Champions League Odds Tracker
Portland Timbers vs Orlando City SC Stats
|5-1-0||Tournament Record (WDL)||5-1-0|
|Blanco (8 pts)||Top Player in Tournament||Nani (7 pts)|
|1st Group F (2-1-0)||Group Position (WDL)||1st Group A (2-1-0)|
|5-1 O/U||Totals (2.5)||3-3 O/U|
Orlando City the Surprise Package of Tournament
Just as Blanco has been instrumental in Portland’s success, Orlando’s captain Nani has been leading the charge for the Lions’ revival in this tournament. The Orlando DP has three goals to go along with four assists for Orlando City and scored two goals in his side’s most recent win over Minnesota in the semifinals. Should Orlando win the trophy, it will likely be the 33-year-old Portuguese star who will win tournament MVP.
Chris Mueller has also had an impact for the Lions, scoring three goals in the tournament’s opening two matches, but has failed to score in the past four.
Nani is still curling in stunners at 33 😍pic.twitter.com/7MwOuIWvYZ
— Goal (@goal) August 7, 2020
It’s not just been Mueller’s scoring which has subsided since the opening matches though, it’s Orlando’s as a whole. After 2-1 and 3-1 wins, they finished the group stage with a 1-1 draw. In the knockout round they won 1-0 and drew 1-1 (before winning on PKs) and then won 3-1 vs Minnesota. That third goal came in the 96′ minute though with the Loons having abandoned defending.
Orlando’s game-tying goal against LAFC in the quarters came in the 90′ minute. Their winner over Montreal came in the 60′, they tied against Philadelphia in the 70′, they scored in the 81′ vs NYCFC and their two goals against Inter Miami came in the 70′ and 97′ minutes. If you’re counting, that means seven of their 11 tournament goals have come in the 60′ minute or beyond.
Orlando’s games have been tight and the goals have been coming late, but a look at their results would also show that they’ve scored in every match, while also conceding in 5/6.
Tuesday's forecast? G O A L S. 🌤️
— Major League Soccer (@MLS) August 9, 2020
After a slow start to the tournament scoring-wise, especially with a few early morning 9:00 am matches, the typically higher-scoring nature of MLS eventually picked back up with scorelines of 2-2, 3-3, 4-3 and 6-2 to name a few. The knockout round matches have been tightly-contested, but have generally seen at least both teams finding the back of the net once in most matches.
Three round of 16 matches ended either 0-0 or 1-0 in regulation, but otherwise, every single remaining match has seen both teams scoring, good for a record of 11-3 in that betting market. While OVER 2.5 totals in the knockout round are just 8-6, if you look at just the past two rounds in the quarters and semis, OVER 2.5 is 5-1.
The Timbers are no strangers to big games in MLS having won MLS Cup in 2015, reaching the conference semis in 2017 and being runners-up in 2018. They regularly make deep runs in the US Open Cup and have twice participated in the CONCACAF Champions League.
Mark your calendar. 🚨📅
￼🔜 Regular Season Returns August 12!
— Major League Soccer (@MLS) August 8, 2020
For Orlando, there’s no kind way to say that they’ve had next to no success in their brief five-year history. The Lions have never made the MLS Cup Playoffs or qualified for Champions League play. They did, however, reach the semifinals of the US Open Cup last year.
It’s really hard for me to not see Orlando as the team they’ve been the past five years. But, new head coach Oscar Pareja has completely turned them around in a short timeframe this year. Even against the Supporters Shield-winning LAFC, Orlando looked strong throughout the match before eventually winning in penalties.
I see both teams getting on the scoresheet on this one, so for a small return, both teams to score at -177 odds is a bet I made. But this one could need PKs to decide the winner, bringing the draw into play as the best value bet. If you want to follow the Orlando City trend of scoring late, an Orlando goal scored in the second half will return odds of -163.
Pick: Draw (+250)
Ryan is SBD's resident soccer pro, though his repertoire is by no means limited to a single sport. His articles have been published by the Canadian Hockey League (CHL), Ontario Hockey League (OHL), and the Kitchener Rangers, and outlets like SportsXpress and Shredthespread.com