When the Portland Timbers lost at Orlando City on April 8, they were 0-3-2 and in last place in the Western Conference of Major League Soccer.
They didn’t lose again until August.
Now Portland, which made the playoffs as the West’s No. 5 seed, faces Eastern Conference champ Atlanta United in Saturday’s MLS Cup final. The Timbers and United met once during the regular season, playing to a 1-1 tie in June.
After their rough start, the Timbers – who played their first five regular season games on the road – were 27-1 to win the title. Now they’re +375, according to the opening line at the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook. Atlanta United is a heavy favorite at -500. Portland resurrected its season thanks to a league-best 15-game win streak and advanced to the final by beating FC Dallas, Seattle and top-seeded Sporting Kansas City.
While MLS is notoriously unkind to teams playing away from home – both Portland and Atlanta were 11-2-4 in their own stadiums this season – the Timbers have become road warriors during the playoffs. They took out Dallas in the knockout round in Frisco, Texas, where the home team had lost twice all season, and beat the Sounders on penalty kicks at CenturyLink Field in the conference semifinals. After a 0-0 draw against SKC in Leg 1 of the conference finals in Portland, the Timbers clinched their MLS Cup berth with a 3-2 win at Children’s Mercy Park, equaling the most goals Kansas City had allowed at home all season.
In Atlanta, the Timbers will face a raucous crowd at Mercedes-Benz Stadium: United led Major League Soccer in attendance this year at more than 53,000 per game.
The home team will garner some interest in the three-way, regulation-time-only money line. Atlanta is -200, while Portland is +500. The odds are +325 that the teams will play to a draw in regulation time. The Over on the total (for regulation time only) of 3 will likely get some play from the public at +110. The pick here is the visitor, Portland at +500.