The MLS is finally back, starting with a clash between 2015 MLS Cup playoff champions Portland Timbers and the new franchise, called Minnesota United, coming over from NASL.
The 2017 MLS season will be the 22nd season so far, with two new expansion franchises(Atlanta United and Minnesota United), so a total of 22 teams will battle for the Supporters’ Shield and at the end, for the MLS Cup.
Portland started their preseason with a loss against New York Red Bulls(2-0) and Croatian club NK Istra 1961(3-2). They followed up with draws against Seattle Sounders(1-1), Real Salt Lake(3-3) and Minnesota United(2-2). They managed to win the last two games, at home against Vancouver Whitecaps(2-1) and an away game against LA Galaxy(2-1). They showed some strong performances and the team should be fully ready for the upcoming season. They are keen to make amends for what was a poor 2016 season. Heavy recruitment in the off-season has increased the depth in the squad and lifted the morale in the team. Several players have spoken about their excitement for the season ahead, with confidence high after pre-season results. Facing a new franchise means that they are expected to get a result, and having faced Minnesota(2-2 ful time, after being down 2-0 in the first half) in pre-season the team will be aware of the strengths of their opponents. Playing at home in front of a passionate crowd often lifts the performances of the team, who are tough to beat at home. They can count on all players except Jeremy Ebobisse, who is on international duty(even if he wasn’t, I highly doubt that he would play).
Since Porter became the coach in 2013, Portland has had mixed results. Although they managed to win the MLS Cup playoffs in 2015, they had a disappointing season in 2016(12-14-8, seventh place, without one single away win). If they fail to perform this year and at least reach playoffs, this could be Porter’s last season with Portland.
Minnesota United hired a new head coach, Adrian Heath, who played a key role in the signing of Kevin Molino, as he worked with him before at Orlando City. They played a couple of MLS teams during the preseason and have achieved some good results(draws against New England Revolution, Vancouver Whitecaps and Portland Timbers). They also managed to drew against NK Istra 1961, but they lost their last game in the preseason against Toronto FC(3-0). Quite a good preseason for a new franchise. They made a lot of new signings during the off-season and it looks like that has not affected the morale in the team, with players giving positive vibes when talking to the media. They have no missing players for this matchup.
Verdict & Prediction
I would be surprised if Minnesota manages to secure even a point in this match, but given that their strikers are definitely on point and the team will want to impress in their first MLS match, it doesn’t make me comfortable betting on either team. I am going with the bet that the home team will be able to score at least twice.
Prediction: Portland Timbers over 1.75 goals (Team Totals)
Odds: 1.847 Pinnacle