The Portland Timbers were proclaimed champions of the ‘MLS is Back’ tournament in North American football by winning this Tuesday in the final against Orlando City 2-1, getting a ticket to the next Concacaf Champions League.

For Timbers, led by Venezuelan Giovanni Savarese, Frenchman Larrys Mabiala scored in the 27th minute and Croatian Dario Zuparic in 66, while Uruguayan Mauricio Pereyra scored for City in the 39th pass from Portuguese Nani.

Portland captain, Argentine Diego Valeri, lifted the trophy for this special tournament played behind closed doors since July 8 at the Disney World sports complex (Orlando).

After a month and a half of strict concentration at Disney World, Portland and Orlando met in the final after leaving behind the big favorites for the title.

In a very close first half, Portland went ahead on the scoreboard with a set piece that started from Valeri’s boots.

From the left side, the Argentine midfielder launched a free-kick to the far post for the arrival of French defender Larrys Mabiala, who headed the net.

City, with their star Nani at the helm, advanced positions in search of a tie and that the trophy did not leave Orlando.

Before the break, Nani went into the left, went due to Duvall’s speed, reached the bottom line and crossed to the heart of the area, where Mauricio Pereyra arrived who, after overcoming Williamson’s sweep, shot goalkeeper Steve Clark.

This action was Nani’s only decisive action in the match, after she appeared throughout the tournament at key moments so that Orlando, a team that has never qualified for the MLS playoffs, could surprisingly advance to the final.

The former Manchester United striker, who finished the tournament with three goals, was one of the candidates for the best player of the championship along with Argentine Sebastián Blanco of Portland, who also had no weight in the final.

– « We gave what we had » –

Portland’s winning goal came in a long succession of plays poorly defended by Orlando’s defense, which began with a Valeri free-kick turned off for a corner by Peruvian goalkeeper Pedro Gallese with a great stretch.

Gallese again cleared an attempt by Ebobisse and, in the second consecutive corner, Zuparic finished in the small area after several rebounds.

At 90 + 2, Kyle Smith had a chance to send the final to penalties but sent a free shot high into the area, allowing Portland to bring their second win to their windows after the league championship in 2015.

« It is not easy. The players are in a lot of pain because we wanted to give this trophy to the fans, » Óscar Pareja said after the game. « The players gave what they had and we had the initiative. »

The MLS, which created this tournament to resume its activities during the coronarius pandemic, will resume its 2020 regular season this week in the stadiums of the teams without spectators, a format that may carry more risks than this championship played in the « bubble » from Disney World.

The first two games of the season, which was suspended in mid-March with only two games played, will be two head-to-head matches between FC Dallas and Nashville on Wednesday and Sunday.

These two franchises had to withdraw from the ‘MLS is Back’ shortly before the start due to outbreaks of coronavirus in their locker rooms. Since those cases, the MLS managed to protect the competition from the pandemic and did not register any positive cases among the players.

Lineups:

Portland Timbers: Steve Clark – Chris Duvall, Larrys Mabiala, Dario Zuparic, Jorge Villafaña – Diego Chará, Eryk Williamson, Marvin Loría (Andy Polo, 67), Diego Valeri (Bill Tuiloma, 90) – Sebastián Blanco (Felipe Mora, 89) and Jeremy Ebobisse (Jaroslaw Niezgoda, 67). DT: Giovanni Savarese.

Yellow cards: Mabiala (44), Chará (70), Villafaña (73)

Goals: Mabiala (27), Zuparic (66)

Orlando City: Pedro Gallese – Ruan (Kyle Smith, 87), Antônio Carlos, Robin Jansson, João Moutinho – Jhegson Méndez (Júnior Urso, 71), Oriol Rosell (Santiago Patiño, 78), Mauricio Pereyra – Nani, Chris Mueller (Benji Michel, 71) and Tesho Akindele (Daryl Dike, 78). DT: Óscar Pareja.

Yellow cards: Antônio Carlos (47), Moutinho (63), Nani (73), Ruan (85)

Goals: Pereyra (39)

gbv / cl