Two teams who’ve enjoyed mixed luck at the start of this campaign will clash at Providence Park, as the Portland Timbers take on Orlando City for the first time since 2020 (4pm ET Sunday; TV: Live on ESPN). How will this play out? This preview plans to answer that question with our predictions and betting picks.
Without turning too many heads, the Timbers have ticked along nicely at the start of this campaign. OK, they lost last time out, and the way they succumbed to FC Dallas’ pressure was slightly alarming, but they were unbeaten in three before that, and are only outside of the coveted top seven by a single point. All in all, a steady start with room for improvement.
At this early stage, Orlando City are in a slightly more favorable position in the Eastern Conference than the Timbers are in the Western Conference. Oscar Pareja’s men are only three points shy of conference leaders Philadelphia Union, thanks to win over Montreal and the LA Galaxy last time out. They also held the Chicago Fire to a tie, and if this preview is completely honest, they were a bit unlucky when losing by a single goal against Cincinnati. All in all, a pleasing beginning.
Could the visitors do more?
A quick glance at the Eastern Conference table shows that Orlando have made a reasonable start to the campaign in terms of points accumulated. However, if we scratch beneath the surface a little, it’s not difficult to start thinking that they’ll need to do a bit more offensively if they’re to maintain their lofty position. After four matches, Pareja’s men are the worst team in the east in terms of expected goals. Now, xG is far from everything, and we all know that it is results that count, though expected goals are a reasonably reliable measure of how a team is performing creatively, and in general, if a team is struggling produce solid xG numbers, or at least xG numbers that are in line with the league average, over the long term, then they’re probably going to find it tough to challenge at the right end of the table.
When it comes to expected goals for, Sunday’s hosts have 3.7 right now. The average in the Eastern Conference at this moment in time is 5.8. Fortunately, the Orlando City troops have surrendered just 4.0, which is the third best in the division, which means that in terms of expected goal difference, they’re inside the top half.
Hard to catch right
The Timbers have been quite up and down over the first month or so of this new campaign. Against the Revs on match-day one, they produced a very encouraging 2.5 expected goals, and they looked a real threat in scoring twice. Next time out, they struggled to create, producing only 0.7 xG, which tells us that they were perhaps slightly fortunate to notch, while they were lucky to come away with a point after LAFC finished the game with a +1.3 xG supremacy. In their last two matches, the Timbers have produced xG for figures of 1.2 and 0.9, conceding 0.9 and 1.5. As things stands, no clear pattern has emerged in that respect.
The departure of the talismanic Diego Valeri has certainly had a negative impact on last season’s MLS Cup finalists, while their other creative maestro Sebastian Blanco is now 35 and not exactly available for 90 minutes week in, week out. So we probably shouldn’t be surprised if we see the Timbers struggle for offensive ideas at times.
Recent head-to-head record
Neither side has dominated this fixture in recent times. When the teams last met, back in 2020, the Timbers won by two goals to one at the MLS Is Back tournament in Florida. The Timbers and Orlando City have each won two of the last five renewals of this fixture. A few goals usually go in when these two lock horns too, with each of the six renewals since Orlando stepped into Major League Soccer back in 2015 containing at least two. Four of those six have seen at least three goals go in. Both teams have scored in each of the last three renewals of this fixture.
Where’s the bet?
The betting lines have Portland as quite strong favorites at -120, but this preview, and its predictions, is not convinced they are worthy of such a price. On the other hand, at odds of +300, the visitors make some appeal. OK, they probably lack the offensive power to go to Providence Park and win convincingly, but their defensive numbers are strong, so it would be little surprise if Oscar Pareja’s travelers picked up a positive result of some kind. With this is mind, Orlando City +0.5 goals on the spread appeals. Let’s be honest, they’ve played with a little bit more consistency than the hosts, while they’ve given less away, in terms of goals conceded, expected goals conceded, shots conceded and shots on target conceded.
Additionally, ‘Under 2.5 Goals’ catches the eye at best odds of +105. As touched on in this preview above, the visitors have been far from the most creative team this season, but crucially, they have given little away, which has leant itself to low-scoring affairs. With three clean sheets to their name, only one of Orlando’s games has contained more than two goals.
The Timbers have been less predictable in their approach, but they’ve only scored more than once on one occasion, while two of their four matches have contained less than three goals. So all in all, siding with a relatively low-scoring affair materializing looks the way to go at what look to be slightly generous odds. So how to beat the USA offshore oddsmakers? These are the predictions and betting picks for this MLS game preview: