Portland 2 – Orlando 1
A champion has been crowned in the first, and maybe only, MLS is Back Tournament. For me personally, it may have been the worst team that could have won it. Portland, Carson, and Houston hold special places in the depths of my sports dislike pool. Portland doesn’t care about being hated. In fact, they revel in it. They are a physical team that willingly takes yellow cards to make sure that the other team knows that they will be in a tough game. This was a great final and could have gone either way. Congrats to Portland for a big win and a spot in the CCL.
Portland played their game nearly perfect against a team that was also playing at a high level. They threw their body in nicely and set the tone with an early goal. Orlando was able to score soon after, but Portland’s goal really changed the mood of the game. Portland was more efficient with their shots forcing Pedro Gallese to make saves. In fact, Steve Clark was a “weak link” for Portland since he was unable to save the only shot that came at him.
I thought long and hard about giving Orlando an “A” level grade as well but couldn’t get past their lack of shooting efficiency. They played the game as well as they could and dominated play in the midfield but fell apart when they took a shot. Orlando had 14 total shots but were only able to get 1 on target. They will be upset that they lost this singular game, but Orlando will be more than pleased with their production in this tournament and will look to build on it as this season progresses.
Man of the Match: Diego Valeri
This is the first game that I am giving the man of the match award to someone that did not score a goal and isn’t a keeper. Valeri was all over the field making plays, drawing fouls, and setting up goals for Portland. Valeri led the counter attack beautifully and constantly held pressure on Orlando’s back line. He drew a foul before kicking a perfect free kick that landed on the head of Larrys Mabiala for the first goal. He also found a wide open Eryk Williamson on the corner that led to the game winner. Portland doesn’t win this match without Diego Valeri.