Another entertaining affair is expected in this quarter-final of an MLS is Back tournament that has really delivered some quality games so far. New York City came through the last-16 with a win over Toronto FC while their opponents, the Portland Timbers, survived a scare and advanced via penalties at the expense of FC Cincinnati. Now the two teams will lock horns for a place in the final four at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando.
Few would have predicted NYCFC to be a contender in this tournament when their plans were laid out giving their poor start to the original season in 2020. The boys from the Bronx started the campaign with back-to-back defeats to Columbus Crew and Toronto and New York City then returned to action with two defeats to Orlando City and Philadelphia Union in Group A. However, a win in their final group game over Inter Miami was enough to see them qualify for the last-16 with three points and as the fourth and final best placed third team to go through. Despite a slack group phase New York City will have taken confidence from their 3-1 win over Toronto and Ronny Deila’s team will feel they have more than enough to take down the Timbers.
Portland topped a competitive Group F with wins over LA Galaxy and Houston Dynamo before a 2-2 draw with LAFC to finish the group phase with seven points from three games but were nearly dumped out in the last-16 by Cincinnati. Giovanni Savarese’s men ultimately prevailed 4-2 on penalties to extend their unbeaten run to five games in 2020. The Timbers have also won four of the five previous head-to-heads between these clubs and both meetings since their Venezuelan coach was appointed in December 2017.
The play-offs have thrown up some exciting encounters so far and this game is no exception. With plenty of attacking quality on show I’m expecting goals and goals at either end with both teams struggling for clean sheets of late. Back both teams to score in this match.