Portland Timbers use goals from both center backs to win 2-1
By Official Florida FC
Orlando City will have to wait for the club’s first trophy.
The Portland Timbers concluded the largest single-site professional soccer tournament the world has ever seen by defeating Orlando 2-1 in the MLS is Back final on Tuesday night at the ESPN Wide World of Sports.
“It couldn’t have happened without the support of all our players, all our teams,” MLS Commissioner Don Garber said before presenting the trophy to Timbers captain Diego Valeri.
Portland has won two trophies in its history. Valeri was the most important person in both triumphs. Tuesday, the 34-year-old Argentine was named Man of the Match after assisting the Timbers’ first goal.
Larrys Mabiala peeled off to the back post and headed Valeri’s free kick home in the 32nd minute. Mabiala’s first goal of the calendar year was his eighth goal in 75 appearances for Portland.
The first goal was always going to be critical. Portland got it with its first shot of the game.
In each of the last 10 MLS Cup finals and U.S. Open Cup finals where a goal was scored, the winner scored first 12 times. Only twice did the winner concede first and win in 90 minutes. Oscar Pareja managed one of those sides — 2016 U.S. Open cup champion FC Dallas — but the Colombian could not pilot Orlando City to a similar feat.
Orlando responded to Portland’s goal by relying on its talisman.
Nani whipped in a cross from the left. Mauricio Pereyra bundled the ball home for his second goal of the tournament.
Orlando and Portland both scored on the only shot they put on frame.
The Lions had far superior possession statistics in the first half — Orlando City kept the ball 64 % of the time — and completed 162 passes in the attacking third, compared to Portland’s 62 passes in the final third. However, the Timbers sat deep and did not allow space between central midfielders Diego Chara and Eryk Williamson and its central defenders Mabiala and Dario Zuparic.
As the match wore on, Portland appeared more likely to score a second.
Valeri put a free kick on frame in the 47th minute. Orlando goalie Pedro Gallese made a comfortable save; but, would be called to make bigger interventions later.
Orlando City entered the final having scored seven of its 11 goals after the 60th minute. However, Portland was the team that ratcheted up the tempo after the hour mark.
Gallese sprawled to his right to deny another Valeri free kick in the 63rd. Orlando cleared its lines on the ensuing corner, but did not alleviate the danger on the corner kick that followed.
The Lions made the mistake of letting a corner kick fall in the penalty area. Valeri’s ball landed at the feet of Williamson, who fired toward goal. Jeremy Ebobisse deflected the ball and it fell to the feet of Zuparic.
The Croat’s first goal for the Timbers was the match-winner.
Orlando City scored three times in the last minute of the match, or in stoppage time. The Lions nearly conjured a fourth on Tuesday; but, Kyle Smith hit his 92nd minute effort over the crossbar.
Portland’s win clinched the club’s first trophy since the 2015 MLS Cup. The Timbers’ first victory in Central Florida also secured a berth in the CONCACAF Champions League.
Meanwhile, Orlando will have to recoup as it resumes league play. A team that won 11 of its previous 61 matches prior to MLS is Back has been transformed.
“This is a long journey,” Pareja told reporters afterward. “We have been here six times with a smile on our face. Knowing tomorrow we needed to prepare for the next game. That’s what we did for the last 46 games. today nothing changed. …It seems like it is more difficult. But the game gives you these opportunities after victory and defeat.”