MLS is Back Tournament: And then there were four vying for the title

MLS is Back Semifinals

Editorial — If there’s one thing MLS fans might forget about the MLS is Back Tournament, it’s the points. To be more specific, the MLS standing points.

No, we’re not exactly talking about the betting numbers. Safe online casinos, booking odds and other betting routes have been dismantled because of the tournament. That’s because teams have used the MLS is Back Tournament to surprise and put on a show.

Orlando City, Portland Timbers, Philadelphia Union and Minnesota United.

Those are the four teams vying for the chance to win and lift the first-ever MLS is Back Tournament trophy. In a year that has brought twists and turns to sports, MLS is no different. The changes aren’t limited to only the season’s structure; instead, there are club changes visible to fans.

Orlando City SC is the highlight in that department. No Dom Dwyer for the Lions has been no problem. The underdogs of the MLS is Back Tournament have taken down the Montreal Impact and then stunned LAFC to get to the semifinals.

Tesho Akindele and João Moutinho have become big-time playmakers for the Lions. In goal, Pedro Gallese has made a name for himself to win the Golden Glove.

In a match of “MLS misfits” the Lions will take on Minnesota United FC on Thursday. Meanwhile, Wednesday night’s match will consist of the Philadelphia Union and Portland Timbers.

The Timbers have fallen on a pot of luck a few times. While Gallese has been stunning with his goalkeeping play, the Timbers have seen Steve Clark forget to use his hands a few times. Portland made it to the semifinals after two shaky, inconsistent matches in the knockouts against FC Cincinnati and NYCFC.

Three Points heading into the MLS is Back Semifinals 

  • Portland needs something: It’s hard to imagine a team with Diego Chara, who just celebrated his 300th MLS appearance with Portland, is labeled inconsistent. However, that’s what the Timbers have been in Orlando. Simply, the play on defense and in goal needs to be better. The attack is fine, with Jeremy Ebobisse shining in Florida. But, against a tough Philadelphia team, the defense needs to be stout. And Steve Clark needs to remember he can use his hands.
  • Island of misfit toys: What a matchup Thursday will bring. The Loons and the Lions. It’s like a match made in misfit toy heaven. However, these are two teams that have dynamic midfields and a strong attacking presence. I believe this match will come down to who defends better. Having a midfielder like Ozzie Alonso, though, will help Minnesota United.
  • Welcome back, Coach: Adrian Heath was the first-ever coach for Orlando City SC. He lasted in Florida for one full season, and then half of 2016. Now, Óscar Pareja is in charge and has turned the Lions from the laughing stock of MLS into a legitimately contending team. Will Heath get revenge on his former club? There’s a good chance it could happen.

MLS is Back Tournament Semifinal Matches

  • Philadelphia Union vs. Portland Timbers on Wednesday at 8 p.m. EST on FS1.
  • Orlando City SC vs. Minnesota United on Thursday at 8 p.m. EST on ESPN2.

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