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Dec 11, 2021 at 8pm UK at Providence Park
PortlandPortland Timbers
1-1
NY CityNew York City FC
Mora (90+4')
van Rankin (59'), Chara (90')
FT
(aet)
Castellanos (41')
Rodriguez (80'), Johnson (88'), Medina (90+1')
NY City win 4-2 on penalties

Preview: Portland Timbers vs. New York City FC - prediction, team news, lineups

Sports Mole previews Saturday's Major League Soccer clash between Portland Timbers and New York City FC, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.

A place in history will be on the line this Saturday when the Portland Timbers host New York City FC in a winner-take-all showdown for the MLS Cup from Providence Park.

This will be the third time that Portland have made it this far, dropping a 2-0 decision to Atlanta United in their previous appearance at this stage, while the Pigeons can claim their first title in club history after defeating a depleted Philadelphia Union side in the Eastern Conference Final last weekend, 2-1.


Match preview

Portland Timbers head coach Giovanni Savarese yells from the sideline on May 16, 2021© Reuters

It is the match that the Timbers have dreamed about, as the 2015 MLS Cup champions will host the final for the first time in their history in a place where they have been incredibly dominant of late, losing only one of their previous nine home matches heading into this deciding fixture.

Giovanni Savarese has seen his team come together at the right time, winning six in a row after ending the fairy tale run of Real Salt Lake, with an impressive showing in the West Final, coming out on top 2-0.

This will be their first meeting against New York since 2019 when the Timbers won 1-0 thanks to a goal from Sebastian Blanco, who missed their last game with a hamstring issue but was a pivotal part of their success in the 2021 regular season.

Even if he cannot go this weekend, this team have shown that they do not need to rely on one player to win, having dealt with countless injuries throughout the year, more often than not finding a way to get the job done.

They have been at their best when playing in front of their fans with a turf playing surface that has turned Providence Park into a fortress, as the Timbers won 11 matches there in the regular season, second only to the New England Revolution, who earned 12 victories in Greater Boston.

This group are happy to give up a lot of possession as they are more of a quick attacking side who play a very direct style with a focus on stretching the field out wide and utilizing their wingers, who have a ton of speed and quality to burn even the fastest of opponents.

Coming into this game, Portland have scored 14 times over their six-game winning streak, but perhaps most impressively for Savarese has been the four clean sheets which they have collected on their current run, allowing a mere two goals.

New York City FC forward Valentin Castellanos (11) celebrates a goal by forward Santiago Rodriguez (not pictured) against Toronto FC with defender Malte Amundsen (12) and forward Thiago (8) during the first half at BMO Field on August 7, 2021© Reuters

The Eastern Conference Final was a lot closer than many had anticipated following the breaking story out of Philly before the match, but in the end, New York were full marks for pulling out a 2-1 victory.

Even though the Union had 11 players missing because of health and safety protocols, it was not as if New York did not have any significant losses to have to overcome themselves, playing without the MLS Golden Boot winner, who was red carded in their Eastern Conference Semi-Final victory.

When you struggle to create much offensively, you need to have the wherewithal to make some bold moves and tactical adjustments, and Ronny Deila deserves a ton of credit for the second-half substitutions that he made last Sunday, as they helped his team get back into that game.

Unlike the Timbers, New York love to dictate matches by having as much of the ball as possible, and with their best player back in the fold, we should expect them to be a lot more aggressive in their play in the middle of the pitch, knowing that they have perhaps the best finisher in the league, who does not need much of an opening to find the back of the net.

To capture their first-ever MLS Cup, New York will have to be sharper with their ball movements against the Timbers, and they cannot afford to lose as many second balls as they did versus Philly.

Expect to see them play just as physical as they have throughout the entire postseason, committing 50 fouls in their last three matches played.

They come into this encounter unbeaten in four consecutive road games but having won only once in their five fixtures versus Portland, although that victory came at Providence Park back in 2016.

Portland Timbers Major League Soccer form:
  • W
  • W
  • W
  • W
  • W
  • W

New York City FC Major League Soccer form:
  • W
  • W
  • D
  • W
  • W
  • W



Team News

Portland Timbers forward Felipe Mora (9) celebrates his goal with forward Dairon Asprilla (27) against the Minnesota United in the first half at Allianz Field on July 24, 2021© Reuters

Felipe Mora scored the winner for Portland last Saturday, while Santiago Moreno and Marvin Loria earned their first career playoff starts for the club, with the latter scoring on a brilliant long-range effort which struck the post and then rebounded off RSL keeper David Ochoa before going in.

Dairon Asprilla is eligible to return after his red card suspension, Blanco is questionable with his hamstring issue, Eryk Williamson has an ACL tear, while Andy Polo, Jeff Attinella and Ismaila Jome will all be sidelined after they each underwent season-ending surgery months ago.

Steve Clark was exceptional when he needed to be last weekend, stopping Damir Kreilach with a point-blank header when the Timbers were ahead by a goal as he has collected consecutive clean sheets in the playoffs, while Dario Zuparic notched his third assist of the season on the Moreno strike.

Alexander Callens, who scored the winning PK versus the Revs, put one in his own goal on Sunday, but Maxi Moralez answered back with the equaliser two minutes later, while New York substitutes Gudmundur Thorarinsson and Talles Magno combined for the winner, two minutes from the end, with the Brazilian striker putting home his third of the campaign.

Valentin Castellanos will be back in the lineup following his red-card suspension, while Anton Tinnerholm and Keaton Parks will not see the field in this one, with Tinnherholm suffering an Achilles injury earlier in the year, while Parks is out after undergoing blood clot surgery.

Heber was the only new addition to their starting 11 on Sunday as he replaced the suspended Castellanos, while goalkeeper Sean Johnson has conceded more goals in the playoffs (three) than he had allowed in his final five regular-season encounters this year.

Portland Timbers possible starting lineup:
Clark; Van Rankin, Mabiala, Zuparic, Bravo; D. Chara, Paredes; Asprilla, Y. Chara, Valeri; Mora

New York City FC possible starting lineup:
Johnson; Amundsen, Callens, Chanot, Gray; Morales, Sands; Rodriguez, Moralez, Medina; Castellanos


SM words green background

We say: Portland Timbers 2-1 New York City FC

This is a tough match to call, as each side has found another gear in the playoffs, and they both possess plenty of quality in the final third, but the Timbers get a slight edge, having been to this point before, so they are unlikely to be overwhelmed by the moment, plus they will have the home crowd behind them.

Portland are also looking a little sharper in all facets of the game, and their depth and quick counter-attacking play should be enough to help them claim their second MLS title.



Top tip

Our expert tipster partners at Sporita.com are predicting under 3.5 goals in this match. Click here to find out what else they are predicting for this game and for more of their tried-and-tested football tips.Under 3.5:data


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How you voted: Portlvs vs NY City

Portland Timbers
59.6%
Draw
17.0%
New York City FC
23.4%
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