Facing the Timbers
The Lions have had the upper hand against Tuesday’s opposition in their five previous fixtures, holding a 2-1-2 record against Portland throughout Club history, with each victory coming in The City Beautiful. Orlando City earned a 4-1 victory over a then-reigning MLS Cup Champion Portland side in 2016 and followed that with a 3-2 win at previously-named Orlando City Stadium in 2018, erasing a two-goal deficit in the final 10 minutes to take all three points on the afternoon. Current Lions forward Chris Mueller started that very rally in the 80th minute of play, scoring his first MLS goal in his rookie campaign.
Oh Captain, Our Captain
Luis Nani played another critical role in Thursday’s Semifinal against Minnesota, securing his first multi-goal performance of 2020, scoring in the 36th and 42nd minutes, respectively. The latter served as Nani’s second game-winner of the tournament, the first coming in the Lions’ opener against Inter Miami CF in second half stoppage time. Of Orlando City’s 11 goals at the MLS is Back Tournament, Nani has registered a goal or an assist on seven of them, good for the most goal contributions for the Lions throughout the competition.
Assisting the Attack
Along with Nani, three other Lions registered an assist on Thursday night against Minnesota, two of which being their first of their respective City tenures in defender Robin Jansson and midfielder Sebastián Méndez. Midfielder Júnior Urso earned his second assist of the calendar year off the bench, playing forward Benji Michel in behind for the Lions’ third goal of the evening.
A Formidable Defense
The Lions defense held firm once more against Minnesota on Thursday, allowing just three shots on target to the Loons, the first of which didn’t come until the 75th minute of play. The City defense has yet to concede more than one goal in a game throughout the entirety of the MLS is Back Tournament and has also helped contribute to the attack, with one goal and three assists coming from members of the backline in the competition.
Insurance Sponsored by Benji
Orlando City forward Benji Michel came off the bench to score his first goal of 2020 against the Loons, his 96th minute finish serving as the insurance goal for the Lions in punching their ticket to the Final. The finish marked the sixth for Michel since signing with the Club as a Homegrown ahead of the 2019 Major League Soccer season. Michel played collegiately at the University of Portland and even spent time with the Timbers U-23 side throughout his three years in the city.
What’s At Stake
The winner of Tuesday’s Final will earn a spot in the 2021 Scotiabank Concacaf Champions League (CCL) along with additional bonuses as part of a $1.1 million prize pool. With Tuesday’s match serving as the first Final for the Lions across all competitions in the MLS era, a victory would represent their first birth to the CCL in Club history.
How They Got Here
Orlando City punched its ticket to the Final after defeating Minnesota United 3-1 in their Semifinal fixture. To reach the last four of the tournament, the Lions had to knock off tournament favorites LAFC in a penalty shootout after defeating the Montreal Impact in a 1-0 shutout in the Round of 16. City finished the group stage atop Group A with victories over Inter Miami CF and NYCFC, followed by a draw against the Philadelphia Union that secured the top seed for the Lions on goal-differential.
Portland knocked off two of the Lions’ Group A counterparts on their road to the Final, most recently the Philadelphia Union by a score of 2-1 in the Semifinals after defeating NYCFC 3-1 in the Quarters. The Timbers too had to battle through a penalty shootout to get here, theirs coming in the Round of 16 against FC Cincinnati. Portland finished atop Group F to punch their ticket to the Knockout Stage presented by Audi, with victories over the LA Galaxy and Houston followed by a 2-2 draw with LAFC.
What Matters Most
Throughout the MLS is Back Tournament, Major League Soccer has announced that club captains will wear a black armband with a graphic in honor of the Black Lives Matter movement. Orlando City captain Nani will wear a Club-designed armband that pays tribute to the historic black neighborhood of Parramore where Exploria Stadium is located. The armband features the different streets and landmarks of Parramore.