MLS Cup Preview: Do the Timbers have the advantage or will NYCFC surprise?

MLS Cup Final Portland Timbers NYCFC
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MLS Cup is what every team has their eyes on to start the season. Of course, coaches and players take games one at a time. However, go into any club meeting the first couple weeks of the preseason. There will be pumps and cheers from players as they look, plan and visualize a chance to get to MLS’ biggest stage.

Now, New York City FC and Portland Timbers are doing that, competing in the MLS Final this weekend, which will be held in Portland. The Timbers got the honor due to being higher on the Supporters’ Shield standings.

Will the Timbers have the advantage due to their home field? Or will New York City FC come in and shock the Timbers?

Team Preview: Portland Timbers FC

It’s pretty obvious that Portland has at least some sort of advantage. Portland, Oregon, is home to one of the most fan-interactive stadiums in MLS. The place is consistently rocking and crowded for Timbers and Thorns games — and loud. Playing in Providence Park is a hurdle for players due to the crowd, but also the turf field.

On a player personnel front, the Timbers are in steady hands with veterans who know the ropes with MLS Cup. Diego Valeri has been a come-off-the-bench player for Portland, but his experience is going to come in handy this week. The “Chara Brothers” are getting older but like wine, getting much finer on the field with Diego and Yimmy dominating Portland’s midfield.

But it’s Felipe Mora and Cristhian Paredes that deserve the highlights. Mora has stepped in with another injury to Sebastian Blanco. Mora had 12 goals during the regular-season. He also scored against Real Salt Lake in the Western Conference Final to help get Portland back home for their third MLS Cup Final. Paredes, from Paraguay, has become a regular starter for Portland, also helping to fill the hole left by Blanco.

Portland has a strong mixture of young and veteran, and that could help them on Saturday.

Team Preview: New York City FC

While the game won’t be held at Yankee Stadium, New York City FC is in their first-ever MLS Cup Final. It’s been a long time coming for veterans on the team like Sean Johnson, Valentín Castellanos and Jesús Medina.

New York has arguably the best attacker of the season — despite what the MLS MVP votes say — in Castellanos. “Taty” Castellanos scored 19 goals and produced eight assists, making him a powerhouse on offense for New York City. On both sides of the ball, New York has some reliable players. Johnson is always a top goalkeeper in the league and has been getting consistent call ups for the U.S. men’s national team.

New York has a big hurdle to jump with flying across the country to play in Portland. It’s not often that NYCFC has to make this trip and for their sake, they better have a big traveling group going for support. Portland is a tough environment, but if Taty or Medina can silence the crowd with an early goal, that could set the tone for NYCFC.

Prediction: Portland Timbers 1, New York City FC 3

I do feel like there could be such a thing as over-confidence. Portland is the veteran team when it comes to playoff experience. Portland is at home with a big crowd in their favor, certainly. However, New York City has a really, really good team. They did not get to the MLS Cup Final as a fluke — and they showed some real mental toughness getting past Philadelphia last week after going down early.

Castellanos with two goals and Alfredo Morales for the other goal. First MLS Cup Final, first title for New York.



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