Portland Timbers vs New York City FC
- Providence Park, Portland
- December 11th, 2021
- 12:00 pm kick-off
Portland route to the final
Portland have had a great season this year, finishing fourth in the Western Conference, just six points behind eventual conference champions Colorado Rapids.
They won 50% of their games but lost a huge 13 out of 34, with only the bottom three teams and Real Salt Lake losing more during the regular season. They finished the season strongly however after losing three games in a row by winning their final three regular-season games and then winning all three playoff games to get to this point to make it six wins on the bounce.
Their attacking trident of Felipe Mora, Dairon Asprilla, and Sebastian Blanco managed to combine for a huge 31 of 56 goals scored throughout the season so far and they will be key if the Timbers are to win the MLS Cup for the second time in their history.
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New York route to the final
New York enjoyed a fantastic season by their own standards as they managed to reach the first MLS Cup final in their history.
They qualified for the playoffs by finishing fourth in the Eastern Conference, just three points off second place but a huge 22 points behind conference winners New England Revolution. They were able to win 14 of their 34 games in the regular season, more than any other side except for New England but like Portland they suffered defeat far more than the teams around them, 11 times.
They ended the season unbeaten in their final five fixtures of the regular season before three wins in the playoffs to make it eight games unbeaten.
Striker Valentin Castellanos has been the star man for New York this year, scoring 21 goals in 34 games as well as registering eight assists. He's been supported well by the likes of Jesus Medina and Ismael Tajouri-Shradi but it will be down to the 23-year-old if New York are to be successful.
Styles make matches
This is bound to be an entertaining game of football as both teams look to score freely and aren't the best defensively.
Portland have scored 71 goals in 41 games in all competitions so far this season heading into this game which averages out at 1.73 goals per game. They have averaged 13.1 shots per game this season making them an attacking force.
With their impressive numbers, they seem to have New York slightly outgunned on paper.
In 37 games this season Ronny Deila's side have scored 62 goals for an average of 1.67 goals per game from an average of 15 shots per game, making their conversion rate lower. Their reliance on Castellanos in front of goals has shown, and Portland will know exactly what they need to do in order to stop New York from being successful.
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History plays a part
These two teams have met six times in the past and the record is incredibly one-sided in Portland's favor.
The home side in this weekend's final have won five out of six of the previous meetings between the sides, with an aggregate score of 10-3. They have managed to keep a clean sheet in four of the games and the last time the two teams went head-to-head it was Portland who came out on top as 3-1 winners back in August 2020.
That record looks even better when you consider four of those games came in New York, but the results in Portland are split at one win each from two games.
There is a psychological element to every sporting occasion and the fact that Portland's record against New York is so good is definitely something that they will use pre-match as motivation. New York will do everything they can to convince themselves that it's just a throwaway stat, but even acknowledging it will benefit Portland.
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This game is all about who scores the first goal. Portland are very good at holding a lead once they get it, but if New York can get the opening goal then it will force Portland to come forward and leave spaces for their counterattack.
New York have a much, much stronger defense having conceded only 36 goals in comparison to 52 by Portland, but their threat going forward is arguably easier to contain. Portland have three excellent attacking outlets up front and because of that, I feel it will be them to get that first goal.
Ultimately it will be close but entertaining, but I'm picking the underdog to take the cup.
Prediction: Portland Timbers 2-1 New York City FC
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