MAJOR LEAGUE SOCCER expert Luke Beaumont (@_LukeBeaumont) analyses the action from Saturday night's MLS Cup final as Atlanta meet Portland.
Atlanta United v Portland Timbers | Sunday 9th December 2018, 01:00 | Sky Sports
Another dramatic Major League Soccer season comes to an end on Saturday as Atlanta United prepare to take on Portland Timbers in an eagerly anticipated MLS Cup at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
Atlanta have the honour of hosting the final thanks to their superior regular-season finish – 70,000+ fans will be in attendance as the Five Stripes look to win the big one before the man behind their success, Tata Martino, moves on to take charge of the Mexican national team.
Atlanta are the heavy pre-match favourites and it is understandable. After all, they have the all-important home field advantage. They also boast the record breaking striker Josef Martinez, as well as Miguel Almiron, who will be aiming to put on a show as Premier League suitors line-up in the hope of securing his signature in the winter.
At 9/20 to win and just 1/5 to lift the trophy, I don’t see the temptation in backing Atlanta in a one-off final which, in all honesty, could go either way.
Portland to lift the trophy at 10/3 with Bet365 looks good value when you consider their previous performances away from home during this play-off run. They won away in Dallas in the opening knockout round before edging past rivals Seattle Sounders on penalties in the semi-finals.
Most recently, the Timbers stunned Sporting Kansas City in the Western Conference final after they found three important away goals at a stadium where so few win.
Thrilling finale forecast
I am expecting goals this weekend and I think we will see the first MLS Cup final to see Over 2.5 Goals since 2015. The Mercedes-Benz Stadium is a venue that produces goals, with eight out of Atlanta’s last 10 home games seeing three or more goals.
Portland have scored many during their play-off run, including six away from home – 11/8 (SkyBet) for Both Teams To Score and Over 2.5 Goals in Saturday’s crunch match is my most favourable bet.
Portland’s Diego Valeri has found the net on four occasions during the play-offs and he has been instrumental during their run so far. The former MLS MVP is a big game player and we could be about the see another big performance from him on Saturday. He's 23/10 (William Hill) to strike again.
The last bet I like the look of is a long shot but a bet that is probably worth a couple of quid. There’s no standout stats to back this up but both teams have the firepower to produce a goalfest in any given game.
The Mercedes-Benz is a stadium synonymous with scoring goals, and Atlanta have scored at least twice in their last eight at home – 16/1 for Both Teams to Score in Both Halves is worth a small interest.
Atlanta United v Portland Timbers – Both Teams To Score and Over 2.5 Goals (11/8 SkyBet)
Atlanta United v Portland Timbers – Diego Valeri to score at anytime (23/10 William Hill)
Atlanta United v Portland Timbers – Both Teams To Score in both halves (16/1 with Bet365)