MLS Cup Finals: Atlanta United to Play Portland Timbers
BarnBurner Sports Writer
Sunday, December 2, 2018
On Saturday, December 8th at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia, Eastern Conference champions Atlanta United will play Western Conference Portland Timbers to crown the 2018 MLS Cup Champions.
Portland has been the underdog story of these playoffs being the 5th seed and having to defeat FC Dallas in the knockout round, 2nd seed Seattle Sounders, who had been in back-to-back MLS Cup finals, in the conference semi-finals that needed penalty kicks to decide the winner, and the 1st seed Sporting KC in the conference finals. Captain Diego Valeri has come up big for his team, scoring 4-goals in 5-games this post-season.
Atlanta on the other hand has not had to face much adversity and have been able to cruise to the finals in impressive fashion; they defeated New York City FC 4-1 on aggregate in the conference semi-finals, and New York Red Bulls, who had broken Toronto FC’s MLS regular season points record with 72-points this season, 3-1 on aggregate in the conference finals.
Taking Atlanta’s quality and playoff performance into account, they should be heavily favored over Portland in the MLS Cup finals. Josef Martinez and Miguel Almiron have played a pivotal role in Atlanta’s success and have really lived up to their designated player status. I feel that even though Portland have been resilient up to this point, Atlanta may be too strong of a team to lose focus and underestimate their opponent.
This year will likely be Atlanta’s best opportunity to win the trophy considering that their team could look much different next season. In October, the club announced that coach Tata Martino won’t be returning next season. Also, OSG Sports’ Jon Nelson mentioned on BarnBurner’s latest Kickin’ It MLS show that Miguel Almiron may be on his way to the Premier League when the transfer window opens.
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Photo Credit: mlssoccer.com and atlutd.com