When they take on New York City FC at Providence Park, the Portland Timbers will feature in a third MLS Cup Final in seven years (3pm ET Saturday; Live on TV – USA: ABC, UniMás, TUDN; Canada: TSN, TVA Sports).
Can the hosts get their hands on US Soccer’s most coveted piece of silverware for a second time? Or will the visitors, NYCFC, who have reached the final for the first time since joining Major League Soccer, do the business? Read on for our MLS Cup Final 2021 preview with betting predictions and picks.
Timbers & NYCFC routes to MLS Cup Final
Three wins on the bounce at the end of the regular season meant that Portland finished easily inside the playoff positions, ending up in fourth position in the west, which mirrored NYCFC’s final placing in the east. Since the postseason began, the Timbers have both turned on the style and the defensive solidity, scoring six goals, and conceding just one in three playoff fixtures, beating Minnesota United, the Colorado Rapids, who topped the Western Conference, and surprise package Real Salt Lake. After back-to-back clean sheets, the Timbers, who have the luxury of playing this all-important fixture on home soil, will fancy themselves to keep things tight.
For the visitors, well, New York City FC has had to tough it out a bit more than Saturday’s hosts. Ronny Deila’s men crept into fourth place, finishing only four points ahead of those that did not make the postseason, and they have not exactly set the world alight since. First time out, thanks to the quality in their forward line, namely the Argentinian duo of Maximiliano Moralez and Valentin Castellanos, NYCFC got the better of Atlanta United, but they weren’t overly impressive, creating a minimal amount offensively.
They needed penalties to see off the Revs, though they did so with both heart and determination in abundance on that occasion. They may just have peaked at the right time too, as their effort last time out against the Philadelphia Union was the best of the bunch since the regular season concluded.
Improved as the season went on
For Portland, reaching the playoffs was never a foregone conclusion. At the start of the regular campaign, their form was up and down. They struggled on numerous occasions against the better teams, even at home, as a record of four losses, one tie and three wins against teams that made the postseason suggests, though things got better as the season wore on.
After a while, Giovanni Savarese’s men got to grips with imposing themselves at home. So much so that they arrive at the MLS Cup Final having won six of their last seven at Providence Park, scoring an impressive 21 goals and conceding six in the process. An average of 3.00 goals for and 0.85 is certainly not to be taken lightly, that’s for sure.
Underwhelming in such games
NYCFC has proved to be a tough nut to crack during the postseason, though the visitors showed a clear weakness for playing on the road against the better teams during the regular season. On their travels against teams that made the playoffs, Deila’s men won just one out of eight, losing four of the other seven. They kept just one clean sheet in such fixtures, which came all the way back in May, while they scored more than once in just one out of eight too, also in May. Such a record does not bode well ahead of Saturday’s all-or-nothing fixture.
Not seeing much of each other
Unlike all of the postseason fixtures up until this point, this pair haven’t seen anything of each other this season. In fact, they have met on the soccer field just once in the last three seasons, back in 2020, when the Timbers went to New York and returned with all three points thanks to a 1-3 win.
Winning in this fixture is something that the Timbers generally do, emerging victorious from each of the last four renewals. Their winning run stretches back to 2017. When the pair last faced off at Providence Park, Portland came out on top by three goals to one in 2018.
How to play the final?
On the moneyline with the leading sports betting sites for American players, NYCFC goes down as the early favorite, which isn’t all that easy to agree with. The visitors can be supported at odds of +155, while the hosts are available at +175, which looks slightly generous.
For starters, it is the Timbers who have impressed more during the playoffs. Granted, they’ve scored the same number of goals as the New Yorkers, but they’ve conceded fewer, surrendering just one compared to the three conceded by the visitors. The hosts have also kept more clean sheets, shutting out two of their three postseason opponents.
If we look back to the regular season, the record of the hosts against top teams at home outweighs what NYCFC produced on the road against those that made the playoffs.
Moreover, the overall home record of the Timbers stands out far more than the traveling record of the New York boys, who have won only two of their last seven away from the comforts of Yankee Stadium. In contrast, as mentioned in this preview above, Saverese’s men have won six of their last seven at home, keeping four clean sheets in the process, which is difficult to ignore.
For those looking for a little value ahead of Saturday’s final, take the Portland Timbers to right the wrongs of 2018 and emerge victorious.
Bet on Blanco
The talismanic figure of Sebastian Blanco wasn’t seen last time out, as Giovani Savarese opted to leave something up his sleeve should the Timbers need a lift. Fortunately, they didn’t. It was perhaps a tad risky, though the risk paid off.
Now that there is nothing left to wait for, the Argentinian is almost certain to return to the line-up, and if he does, bettors shouldn’t shy away from him as an anytime goalscorer.
Scorer of two goals in the postseason so far, Blanco has long been a man for the big occasion, and as he averages 0.53 goals per 90 minutes, 3.28 shots, and 0.42 expected goals. He is worthy of more than consideration by those looking for a player prop.
So these two betting picks are our MLS Cup Final predictions for this preview:
- Portland Timbers to win @ +180 with BetOnline. It is +175 with EveryGame and +170 with Bovada.
- Sebastian Blanco to score at any time @ +250 with Bovada or EveryGame.