MLS Cup Finals Preview: Atlanta United vs. Portland Timbers

As the 5 Stripes get set to host a locked on Portland Timbers team, soccer in the South is more present than ever this Saturday in Downtown Atlanta.

Almiron celebration
Almiron celebration

For the first time in Atlanta sports history, the city will host the MLS Cup finals in the Mercedes-Benz Stadium with the hometown team participating. Who would’ve thought that the Benz would have futbol finals played inside of it and not football?

The work and determination that Atlanta United has clocked in over the last 2 years has been enough to cause a rumble within the entire league of the MLS, in a positive manner. Hiring the executives and higher ups that they did in order to establish a solid idea and have that idea trickle down the totem pole worked for Atlanta’s advantage.

Securing Tata Martino as Head Coach, a highly influential coach with connections all over the world, was a main selling point in finalizing many player transfer deals like Almiron’s or Ezequiel Barco’s. Everyone wants to go where Martino goes.

With this being Martino’s last match in the A, there’s no doubt in my mind that tributes will be played and recognition will be given to the mastermind behind the Starting XI every week that’s led us to the MLS Cup Finals.

Feelin’ Good, Feelin’ Great

MLS: D.C. United at Atlanta United FC
Mar 11, 2018; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta United forward Andrew Carleton (30) celebrates with midfielder Darlington Nagbe (6) after their game against the D.C. United at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

ATL UTD is coming into this MLS Cup Final with no notable injuries from the main players that have being seen action throughout the season. Greg Garza has been up to  100% for over a month and has been playing beautifully, as if he’d never left. Martino is likely to use Garza in the regular Left Back position to X out any Portland attack from that side.

The Atlanta attack is notable for having the faces of the franchise (Almiron, Martinez, Villalba) but the Atlanta backline has played a very important role in their playoffs victories. By keeping the goals against to a minimum, Atlanta has been able to outscore the opponent and secure the W.

Seeing as we’ve only lost in the Benz twice this entire season, it’s going to be very hard for the Timbers to get any sort of momentum going, to say the least, especially with an expected 72,000+ Atlanta fans making their presence known tonight.

Draw is not an Option

Andy Polo Portland Timbers
Andy Polo Portland Timbers

With the immense amount of pressure on both teams, things can go either of two ways: 1. They tighten up the defense and both teams end up scoreless.

2. It’s a tight game – one team edges out the other by the minimum margin.

With that being said, anything can happen in the Finals. I wouldn’t be surprised if one team completely blew out the other. According to statistics, however, Atlanta has a 70% chance of winning it all, and while Portland has been great on the road (taking out Seattle and Sporting Kansas City both as visitors) this may be the straw that broke the camel’s back.

The midfield is where the Timbers look the most deadly. With the experienced Diego Valeri aka El Maestro pulling all of the strings, and their ridiculously fast wingers like Andy Polo, Portland has no trouble getting into the opponent’s upper third. Atlanta has to be prepared for fast-paced attacks and counter-attacks that have gotten the Portland Timbers this far into the game.

Arturo Principe | @ArturoPrincipe1






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