It may not be the most storied knock-out competition in professional football, but we can now announce that Portland Timbers are the winners of the first (and hopefully the last) MLS Is Back tournament at the ESPN Wide World Of Sports Complex in Disney World, Florida.
Portland’s two central defenders, Larrys Mabiala and Croatian Dario Zuparic scored a goal in each half to clinch the 2-1 victory over Orlando City FC.
The tournament was introduced as a way to kick start MLS following the hopelessly flawed, half-baked Coronavirus lockdown that started in the USA back in March.
However, due to players testing positive for the virus, two teams had already dropped out of the month long tournament before a ball had even been kicked. The league soldiered on without Dallas and Nashville and managed to complete the schedule of 50 odd matches without too much further embarrassment – although disgruntled players tweeting out photos of soggy sandwiches in cardboard boxes masquerading as ‘fine dining options’ didn’t exactly help.
On the pitch, the games had to compete with the climax to the major European league’s seasons including the Bundesliga, Serie A, La Liga and the English Premier League. No contest, really.
The tournament was set up in the traditional fashion, featuring six groups of four teams each, with the successful ones advancing to the knock-out phase. Points earned in the group stage games also count towards the regular MLS season which finally resumes this week. The tournament winners, Portland Timbers, also qualify for the 2021 CONCACAF Champions League.
Unfancied Orlando knocked out jeux de casino favorites LAFC and Minnesota to reach the final while Portland saw off East Coast hot shots Philadelphia Union and NYCFC.
Portland went into the final as favorites due in large part to their strength as a group under manager Giovanni Savarese, who New York fans will remember fondly as a celebrated player for the NY/NJ MetroStars and highly successful manager of the re-born New York Cosmos.
Portland started the game defensively, soaking up early pressure from Orlando and biding their time until the 27th minute when Diego Valeri’s free kick was headed home by Mabiala to give the Timbers a short-lived lead.
Twelve minutes later, following some neat play by Orlando on the wing, Nani fed Mauricio Pereyra who drilled the ball home from six yards, making it clear that the hosts were not just here to make up the numbers as they pushed forward aggressively looking for a second goal before half time.
The winning goal, however, didn’t arrive until the 66th minute, and it was Portland who scored it from another set piece as the other center back Zuparic tucked the ball home from a poorly defended corner.
Portland weathered a late flurry from Orlando to see the game out as worthy victors, handing Savarese his first silverware as Timbers manager after the disappointment of losing the MLS Cup final to Atlanta in 2018.
With the ‘Is Back’ tournament now out of the way, the ‘regular’ 2020 MLS season resumes with the two tournament absentees FC Dallas & Nashville SC playing each other in catch up games this week. The New York ‘Hudson River Derby’ takes place next Thursday, August 20th.
Punters from here to online casino New Zealand will be studying the form books while favorites such as LAFC, Portland and Seattle Sounders duke it out over the next few months. There are still some stumbling blocks for the league to iron out, such as how and when to integrate the 3 Canadian teams due to the ongoing travel ban. Either way, the season will culminate in the play-offs beginning on Nov 20th that will involve 18 clubs – up from 14 last year – with the final being played on December 12th.
As usual you can keep up with all the game times and TV schedules here.