ORLANDO, Fla. – Then there were only two teams left in the MLS is Back tournament. With the results on Wednesday and Thursday, both Orlando City SC and the Portland Timbers have advanced to the MiB Final. Both teams went undefeated in the group stage with two wins and a draw.
MiB Final Preview: The 2021 Concacaf Champions League Berth on the Line
Orlando City SC
What is on the Line for Orlando City SC?
Orlando City SC, the host of the tournament (sort of) could win its first major tournament on Tuesday. The Lions have never made the MLS Cup Playoffs since they came into MLS in 2015. Their best performance in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup was the Semifinals in 2019.
Players to Watch – 2020 MiB Final
Chris Mueller and Luis Nani are the joint goal-leaders (with three goals) for the Lions. This includes Nani’s two goals that helped Orlando City SC win 3-1 over Minnesota United FC.
Furthermore, Muller played a big role in Lion’s positive group stage result. All three of his goals came in the group stage. According to Hannah Drosdick of orlandocity.com, Mueller is a player to watch for the Lions. This is what Oscar Pareja, head coach of Orlando City SC said about Mueller:
“He is a player who has goals, a player that you can play wide, centered or even as a second forward. He is learning how to penetrate in the spaces, and I see a lot of growth in Chris. We have high hopes for him with the Club.”
However, these were not the only players that stepped up for the Lions. João Moutinho scored the late equalizer against Los Angeles FC in the Quarterfinals. If the Lions did not score this goal, they would have been knocked out from the knockout round. Furthermore, what should not be forgotten is Nani’s assist on Moutinho’s goal. Nani leads the Lions in assists with three.
— Orlando City SC (@OrlandoCitySC) August 1, 2020
The team would end up winning in penalties and advancing to the Semifinals. This was the closest game the Lions faced in the MLS Is Back Tournament.
Lastly, there is Tesho Akindele. The Canadian international has scored two goals for Orlando City SC. This includes scoring the game-winning goal against the Canadian side of the Montreal Impact in the Round of 16. In total, Orlando has scored 11 goals. Also, they had more shots on goal than their opponents in both the Round of 16 and the Semifinals.
The minor concern for the Lions though is completing clean sheets. They had only one clean sheet, which was against the Montreal Impact. Granted, Orlando City SC has only given up one goal each in the other six games. However, it still puts pressure on Orlando to score multiple goals and the Portland Timbers are also a particularly good team offensively.
Portland Timbers are remarkably like Orlando. They score lots of goals and have players that have stepped up in the bigger stage. Their hardest match so far was against FC Cincinnati in the Round of 16. In that round, the Timbers won in penalties 4-2. Jaroslaw Niezgoda the goals for Portland that night.
The Timbers have scored 12 goals in the MiB is Back Tournament. Diego Valeri is second on the Timbers list for assists. This is while Jeremy Ebobisse leads in scoring with four goals. Ebobisse is a player to watch in this tournament.
Jeremy Ebobisse is the only player in MLS this season to have scored with his right foot, left foot, and head.
— Portland Timbers (@TimbersFC) July 27, 2020
Sebastián Blanco, who is also an Argentinian international, is tied for first in the MiB Tournament in assists with five. He is the second-highest scorer for the Timbers in the MiB Tournament. He is Timbers’ most valuable player. According to Dylan Butler, a contributor to mlssoccer.com, this is what Portland Timbers head coach Giovanni Savarese said of Blanco:
“I think what I see this year a little bit different is that he’s a lot more calm,” Savarese said in a Monday video conference call. “I think there’s a higher level of maturity in his game that he’s been able to bring to this year that is allowing him to be able to bring an even different level up, or better said, show what he shows every single day in practice more constant in every game.”
They have played well in the knockout stages having more shots on goal in both the Round of 16 and the Quarterfinals. They also turned it on against the Philadelphia Union, scoring the first two goals of the game and winning the game 2-1.
However, like Orlando City SC, the Timbers had trouble keeping the ball out of the net. In all their games in the tournament, they have not had a clean sheet.
What is on the Line for the Portland Timbers? – 2020 MiB Final Preview
Also, unlike Orlando City SC, the Portland Timbers have already won hardware. In 2015, the Portland Timbers defeated the Columbus Crew SC to win their first and only MLS Cup. They were also runners-up in the 2018 MLS Cup Final, where they lost to Atlanta United FC.
Their best performance in the U.S. Open Cup was making the Semifinals in both 2013 and 2019. They also made two appearances in the Concacaf Champions League (2014 and 2016) where they were eliminated in the group stage.
Overview of the 2020 MiB Final
A 2021 Concacaf Champions League berth is on the line. The winner of the first MLS is Back Tournament will take place on Tuesday, August. 11 at 8:30 PM eastern time. Orlando City SC can win their first-ever major hardware and go to the Concacaf Champions League for the first time in franchise history.
The winner can also earn $300,000 USD according to Neil Davidson of The Canadian Press. This is while for the Timbers they can add another major hardware in their MLS history.
There will be a lot on the line on Tuesday and it should be a good game both ways. According to oddschecker, Orlando City SC has slightly better odds of winning the tournament. However, the Portland Timbers have more MLS playoff experience and know-how to step up in big games.
— Major League Soccer (@MLS) August 7, 2020