2021 MLS Cup Final: Portland Timbers vs NYCFC Predictions, Odds, and Best Bets
For most people this may come as a surprise–but the 2021 MLS Season crowns their champion today with the Portland Timbers facing off against NYCFC in the MLS Cup Finals. With kickoff just a few hours away, here’s everything you need to know about today’s championship match.
How to watch Timbers vs NYCFC
Date: Saturday, December 11th Time: 3:00 PM EST
Key Factors and Storylines
Portland’s Home Field Advantage
The Portland Timbers will be hosting the MLS Cup Final for the first time in Franchise history, as they try to grab their fifth MLS Championship since 2009. Portland only lost four home games in the regular season, and come into their Championship match not having lost a home game since mid-October. NYCFC only won four away games in the regular season, so all signs should be pointing towards Portland–however, in order to get where they are NYCFC had to win two consecutive away games against the New England Revolution and the Philadelphia Union, making them a perfect 2-0 in away play this postseason. In fact, NYCFC hasn’t lost an away game (or any game for that matter) since October 17th.
A Battle Amongst Midfielders
This match will most likely be won in the midfield, where we’ll find a clash of the titans between NYCFC’s Maxi Moralez and Portland’s Diego Chara. Maxi Moralez has some of the best field vision I’ve ever seen–often the forefront of NYCFC’s attack, Moralez’s ability to open up the field and expose the empty spaces in defensive lines is unparalleled. Moralez already has a goal and a pair of assists so far this postseason, but will face his toughest opponent in this Championship match thanks to a midfield commanded by Diego Chara. Diego Chara is one of the best center defensive midfielders in MLS history, and it’ll be up to him to track Moralez while keeping his defense in position to not only limit NYCFC’s chances of counterattacks, but to create some counterattacks of their own. If Portland is able to contain Moralez and keep defensive shape, then they should be able to greatly limit NYCFC’s offensive attack. Lose track of Moralez though, and he and striker Valentin Castellanos will make you pay.
Speaking of Valentin Castellanos…
This years Golden Boot winner with 19 goals, Valentin Castellanos has been a defensive unit’s nightmare all season. Castellanos came into the playoffs having scored six goals in NYCFC’s last four games, and continued his form by scoring three goals in NYC’s first two playoff matches before receiving a red card in the Semi-Final, prohibiting him from playing in the Conference Final. Unfortunately for the Timbers the red card came one game too early, and he will be available and starting for NYCFC in today’s game. While it’s important to keep an eye on Castellanos, the Timbers have to be careful as to not give him TOO much attention, seeing as NYCFC have dangerous attackers on all sides of the pitch.
Predictions and Best Bets
Being a New Yorker born and raised, it’s hard to ignore the inherent bias I have in picking this game. With that said–this game feels incredibly close. NYCFC’s offense has been unstoppable so far this postseason, but they’ll be running into a brick wall in Portland’s defense, who have only allowed one goal in their three postseason matches. Both teams have beaten their conference’s #1 overall seed in order to get here, and both have shown the ability to score goals when it matters and stay calm under pressure. It might be a bit of a bold move, but I can see this game being tied (+200) after the first 90 minutes, and come down to either a late overtime goal or a penalty shootout.
I LOVE Valentin Castellanos ending his season with a bang by scoring a goal in the championship match (+250) but don’t expect many goals after that so keep an eye on the total in real-time.
Unfortunately, the game can’t really end in a tie and a winner has to be crowned–so since I have to, I’ll take NYCFC to lift the Cup (-108) and bring New York their first MLS Cup in years.
All in all, here’s what my card will look like going into today’s game:
Result after 90 Minutes TIED (+200)
NYCFC To Lift the Cup (-108)
Valentin Castellanos to score (+250)
Under 2.5 Goals (-142)
Corners UNDER 10 (+120)
Penalty Missed YES (+900)
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