ORLANDO, United States, Aug 12 – The Portland Timbers defeated Orlando City 2-1 on Tuesday to clinch victory in Major League Soccer’s “MLS is Back” restart tournament.
Goals from Congolese defender Larrys Mabiala and Croatian center-back Dario Zuparic sealed Portland’s second piece of MLS silverware in five years following their 2015 MLS Cup triumph.
Uruguayan midfielder Mauricio Pereyra had equalised for Orlando after Mabiala’s opener, but the Florida club were unable to cap their fairytale run to the final with the club’s first trophy.
Instead, it was Gio Savarese’s well-organised Portland side who showed the greater composure at key moments in a sometimes testy final that saw seven players pick up yellow cards.
Portland took the lead after 27 minutes when a superb curling free-kick from the Timbers’ veteran captain Diego Valeri picked out Mabiala in the area, who headed home for 1-0.
Orlando, however, responded well and drew level six minutes from half-time with a goal that owed everything to the trickery of captain Nani.
The former Manchester United and Portugal international glided down the left flank and beat his man to slide in a low cross that Pereyra controlled before smuggling a shot under Timbers keeper Steve Clark.
The winning goal came on 66 minutes, and once again, it was via another Portland set piece. Valeri’s corner found Eryk Williamson on the edge of the area who shot towards goal.
The midfielder’s effort was touched on by US international striker Jeremy Ebobisse into the path of Zuparic, who turned the ball into the net from close range.
The Timbers’ win put the seal on a broadly successful tournament for Major League Soccer, which relaunched its season in July after a four-month shutdown following the coronavirus pandemic.
MLS chiefs based all of the league’s teams at Orlando inside a secure, quarantined “bubble” to play in a one-off World Cup-style tournament without spectators at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Disney World.
Although the early days of the competition ran into problems, with both Dallas and Nashville forced to withdraw because of COVID-19 outbreaks, the tournament ran smoothly thereafter.
Major League Soccer will resume its regular season this month with teams playing at their home stadiums with no fans allowed.