July 6, 2022

2021 MLS Cup predictions: New York City FC or Portland Timbers?

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Major League Soccer’s 26th season will close out with Saturday’s MLS Cup (3 p.m. ET, ABC and UniMás).

The Portland Timbers are in the league’s championship game, and it’s not the first time- it’s actually the third time in seven seasons. This does mark the first time the Timbers will host MLS Cup at their home stadium, Providence Park, and in front of the Timbers Army. The Timbers scored the MLS Cup in 2015 in Columbus against the Crew, but they lost in the 2018 title game to Atlanta United.

New York City FC, which became part of the MLS as an expansion team in 2015, is appearing in its debut MLS Cup.

So, who will win: The Timbers or NYCFC?

Pat Brennan of the Cincinnati Enquirer has this prediction: NYCFC 2, Portland Timbers 1.

Brennan states, “Portland has an obvious edge in hosting the 2021 MLS Cup final at Providence Park, but New York City FC regains a more important edge with the return of Valentin Castellanos, the best goal scorer that will be on the field for both teams. Prior to Castellanos’ red card against the New England Revolution in the Eastern Conference semifinal and subsequent suspension for the conference final win against the Philadelphia Union, the 2021 Golden Boot winner was in-form with two playoff goals (vs. Atlanta and New England). He’ll be grateful to see competition again in the championship match after his suspension. NYCFC took out Philadelphia without Castellanos, so it’s hard to imagine them getting knocked off from their title push with him back in the fold.”

Drake Hills of The Tennessean has this prediction: Portland Timbers 2, NYCFC 0.

Hills says, “MLS Cup final experience and home-field advantage will play a big part in this outcome, but so will Felipe Mora. Portland’s Chilean striker has 12 goals to his name this year and one can vividly envision Providence Park erupting in uncontrollable elation after a Mora goal to break the scoring deadlock. There’s too much of a force from the Timbers, even though NYCFC’s ‘Taty’ Castellanos will be returning from his one-game suspension in the Eastern Conference final. Portland will get weird on Saturday and the Timbers will lift its second MLS Cup.”

Jacob Myers of The Columbus Dispatch has this prediction: NYCFC 2, Portland Timbers 1.

“Toward the end of their careers, what a send-off it would be for Diego Valeri and Sebastian Blanco to win MLS Cup on their home field. But I’m going with the upset on the belief that New York City has slightly better offensive firepower than Portland. This pick is somewhat of a bet that Valentin Castellanos comes back from a suspension with vengeance and will be the most dangerous man on the field. New York gets its first major pro sports championship since 2011.”