Orlando City has never lost to the Portland Timbers in Central Florida
By Official Florida FC
Orlando City’s manager has won trophies. Its captain has won trophies. The question is whether Oscar Pareja and Nani will be able to win their first trophy with Orlando City?
That will be determined when the Lions face the Portland Timbers in the MLS is Back final.
Meanwhile, at least three members of Portland’s 2015 MLS Cup-winning team will play pivotal roles on Tuesday night. Diego Valeri scored in the opening minute of the 2015 MLS Cup final — courtesy of a mistake from current Timbers goalie Steve Clark. Diego Chara remains a mainstay in central midfield, despite being 34 and fullback Jose Villafana has returned to the club after a three-year spell in Liga MX.
Orlando City is 3-1-1 all time against the Timbers. The Lions have won both contests that were played in Orlando, including a 3-2 win in 2018 that was highlighted by three Orlando City goals in the final 10 minutes.
This is different. A trophy is on the line as well as a place in the CONCACAF Champions League.
Here are five keys to the match:
FIRST TOUCHThroughout the Lions’ run in MLS is Back, players in the middle of the field have not always had a clean first touch. The problem has plagued central defender Robin Jansson, midfielder Junior Urso as well as Ori Rosell at times. Portland’s compact shape, and ability to break in transition, means Orlando has to be clean in possession.
MIDFIELD MASTERYOrlando beat LAFC and Minnesota United despite a number of shocking turnovers in midfield. Rosell had 10 misplaced passes and two unsuccessful dribbles against LAFC. Urso managed five misplaced passes, despite entering as a substitute.
FINISHINGOrlando City has missed more chances than its opponent in four of its six matches in MLS is Back. Nani has shown he is a superb finisher. The Portuguese winger has shown he can put the ball in the back of the net. However, Portland has three players who can do that in Diego Valeri, Sebastian Blanco and Jeremy Ebobisse.
FINDING SPACEPortland has suffocated creative players all month long. Philadelphia Union schemer Brenden Aaronson was the latest person to learn how much space Diego Chara and Eryk Williamson cover in the middle of the field during the Timbers’ 2-1 win in the semifinals. Williamson and Chara combined to win four tackles and recover possession 12 times.
Not coincidentally, the one time the Timbers conceded twice this tournament — against LAFC in the group stage — occurred when there were gaps between central midfield and central defense.
SCORING FIRSTGoals change games. That axiom is even more critical in a final. Portland has scored first in all six of its MLS is Back tournament matches. Meanwhile, Orlando has conceded first against Miami, Philadelphia and LAFC.
In the last 10 MLS Cup finals where a goal scored, the team that scored first won six times. Two lost in penalty kicks and another was decided after extra time. Only once has a team conceded first and won in 90 minutes. That team had David Beckham, Landon Donovan and Robbie Keane, firepower that neither Orlando City nor Portland possess.