- The MLS Cup Final is set with Atlanta United hosting Portland on December 8
- Can Atlanta win their first MLS Cup in only their second season?
- Or will Portland play spoiler and win their second Cup in four years?
MLS Cup will be going south in 2018 to the Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia.
Atlanta United defeated the New York Red Bulls and own the superior regular season record over the Portland Timbers who emerged as Western Champions over Sporting Kansas City.
Atlanta are heavy favorites with average odds of -400 to lift MLS Cup. Check out how each club’s odds have adjusted this season with our MLS Cup Odds Tracker.
The final will be the first appearance for Atlanta, while Portland won MLS Cup as recently as 2015. It will be a first for Timbers’ Head Coach Giovanni Savarese who is in his first year with the club.
Atlanta United vs Portland Timbers Odds
|Spread||Moneyline||Total||Odds To Lift Trophy at Bovada|
|ATL||-1 (-125)||-220||O 2.5 (-135)||-400|
|POR||+1 (+105)||+600||U 2.5 (+105)||+275|
*All odds taken from Bovada on 12/2
Atlanta Reach MLS Cup In Second Season
In their home leg of the Eastern Conference Championships, Atlanta took the lead over New York in the 32′ minute through a goal by Josef Martínez.
That goal remained the only score until United added a second and then a third in the 71′ and 95′ minutes. Atlanta outshot the Red Bulls 13-6 and put five shots on target compared to only one for New York.
The win marked the first time Atlanta had defeated the Red Bulls in their history over a four-game stretch.
Leg 2 offered less excitement but it was much by design as the Five Stripes had little desire to push forward, already owning a three-goal advantage.
Atlanta sat back and absorbed the pressure by New York who held nearly 70% of the possession. The Red Bulls failed to break through until a late 94′ minute goal by Tim Parker but it was too little too late.
It was the third time in six years they [NYRB] won the Supporters’ Shield yet failed to even qualify for MLS Cup.
Once again the Red Bulls failed to have playoff success. It was the third time in six years they won the Supporters’ Shield yet failed to even qualify for MLS Cup.
— Julian Gressel (@JulianGressel) November 30, 2018
The Atlanta/Portland final will be a rematch of their June 24 game played in Atlanta. On that day each team shared the spoils in a 1-1 draw.
Atlanta vs Portland Regular Season Statistical Comparison
|14-1-2||Record Home (W-D-L)||11-4-2|
|8-4-5||Record Away (W-D-L)||4-5-8|
Timbers Return To MLS Cup
Portland failed to take advantage of home-field in Leg 1 which resulted in a 0-0 draw.
However, the Timbers prevailed on the road in KC to return to MLS Cup after losing in the Conference Semi-Finals last season.
It wasn’t easy as Sporting controlled the first half and jumped out in front with a goal from Daniel Salloi only 20 minutes into the match. The Timbers responded early in the second half with a wonder strike by Sebastian Blanco from 25 yards out.
Already leading on aggregate through away goals, Diego Valeri added to Portland’s lead in the 62′ before Gerso Fernandes drew SKC level again in the 81′ minute. With Portland still ahead on away goals, Sporting was forced to throw everything they had at the Timbers in the final minutes.
But once again it was Valeri who sealed the game for Portland with his second goal in the ninth minute of stoppage time. An extended earlier stoppage due to fan unrest was responsible for the additional minutes.
— Portland Timbers (@TimbersFC) November 30, 2018
SKC held the advantage in possession, shots, shots on target, and chances, but were undone by a nine-minute spell in allowing Portland’s first two goals. Previous to this, they’d held Portland scoreless for 321 minutes this season.
Who Lifts MLS Cup?
Although both number one seeds have now been eliminated, MLS Cup will still feature two more than deserving sides.
Atlanta set multiple records this season which you can see in the graphic below and a record crowd of 70,000+ will be expected at MLS Cup. The Timbers had a 15-game undefeated streak earlier this year and have only lost once in their last nine matches.
One by one, we Conquer 👊 pic.twitter.com/7Bfob2w72t
— Atlanta United FC (@ATLUTD) November 30, 2018
I previewed the Conference Championships earlier and predicted a New York and Portland final.
That said, I placed a futures bet on Atlanta months ago, but was concerned this may have been the year the Red Bulls finally exorcised their playoff demons.
Atlanta are now in the finals and at home where they’ve only lost twice all season.
With the added motivation of Head Coach Tata Martino moving on and possibly Miguel Almirón’s transfer after the season, I can only look to bet Atlanta winning MLS Cup.
— Major League Soccer🏆 (@MLS) November 30, 2018