Portland Timbers were crowned as the champions of the one-off MLS is Back Tournament after they picked up a 2-1 win over hosts Orlando City in the final on Tuesday night.
Timbers went into the game as the slight underdogs, considering they had won just one of their previous five meetings against Orlando. However, they managed to find the opening goal through Larrys Mabiala’s header in 27th minute after a delightful free-kick from Diego Valeri.
Their lead did not last for long as Mauricio Pereyra equalised for Orlando, six minutes from the interval. In the second half, the game was fairly balanced before Giovanni Savarese’s side went ahead in the 66th minute.
The goal came from the unlikely of sources with defender Dario Zuparic finding the back of the net for the first time with Timbers. That was sufficient to lead them to the title as Orlando registered just one shot on target over the course of the 90 minutes.
With the victory, Timbers have won only second piece of silverware in MLS, the previous being the 2015 MLS Cup. The win has guaranteed their berth in next year’s Champions League alongside the $300,000 prize money and a unique trophy.
Meanwhile, Orlando boss Oscar Pareja should be proud of his team’s efforts, given they were one of the underdogs in the lead-up to the tournament. The club finished 11th in each of the previous two seasons in the Eastern Conference.
Since their inception into MLS in 2015, they have not come close to making the play-offs, but have a good chance of doing so this term. They are currently third in their standings with eight points on the board and that includes the seven points accumulated from the three group stage games at the MLS is Back Tournament.
The governing body of MLS have confirmed that there will be 16 MLS Cup play-off places up for grabs with eight from each conference. Orlando have another 18 games to play in the regular season and should fancy their prospects of making it to the play-offs, if they are able to carry over the momentum from the MLS is Back Tournament.
Stats from Transfermarkt.com
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