When football return to the U.S.A, a number of critics were skeptical about how it’d go. With the pandemic still raging, some thought it was too early to kick off a sport whose fan base is still competing with the likes of the NFL and the NBA.
A few days after, and it has turned out to be an eventful competition. Maybe not for the other sides that failed to make it to the final, but definitely for the two finalists, Portland Timbers (of the Western Conference) and Orlando City (of the Eastern Conference).
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And what a journey it has been for both sides.
In the Round of 16, three teams needed penalties to gain qualification to the quarter-final. And Portland Timbers was one of such side. Against FC Cincinnati, they converted all their penalties to advance in the competition.
While they managed to finish their quarter-final and semi-final opponents in full time, another trend emerged. On their way to the final, the Timbers scored five goals in two games but failed to keep a clean sheet in both.
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In the other half of the MLS Is Back tournament, Orlando City’s journey has been somewhat similar. A one-goal win over Impact Montreal was enough to earn them quarter-final qualification.
In their game against Los Angeles FC, they needed penalties to see off their opponents, after scoring a 90th minute equalizer to draw level in the game. Five scored penalties after, and Orlando scaled through to the semi-final where they scored three times against Minnesota United.
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Between them, both finalists have scored 15 goals, conceding 12 on their way to the final. If the history between both sides is anything to go by, Orlando City head into this one as favorites.
Only once have Portland Timbers defeated Orlando City. In the last five meetings between both sides, only one has finished without a winner. But this being the final, a winner must be produced – whether in extra time or via penalties.
Will the trend continue in this final?
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The stage for the best of the best to lock horns in the U.S. The MLS Is Back tourney has produced its best. Which one will finish the game as winner? Share your thoughts with us in the comments section below.