Diego Valeri is celebrating a big win…
The 34-year-old Argentine footballer helped lead his Portland Timbers team to this year’s MLS Is Back Tournament trophy, after they defeated Orlando City 2-1 in a hard fought battle at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex just outside of Orlando, Florida.
The Timbers played their type of match all night: building a strong defensive presence to frustrate their opponents into making critical mistakes that resulted in opportunities for themselves. Early on it was working well as Orlando seemed to keep bouncing off of the proverbial wall that was built whenever they tried to get inside of the box.
On offense, the Timbers continued to break through Orlando’s back line. This eventually led to a free kick opportunity for Valeri, who delivered a beautiful ball into the box for Larrys Mabiala to head it home.
Orlando, however, wasn’t going to go down quietly. Its new signings, Portuguese winger Nani and Uruguayan midfielder Mauricio Pereyra, made sure of it. On a break downfield, Nani found his teammate in the box with a low cross. Pereyra was able to recover from stumbling after a touch on the ball and was also able to poke a shot right past Steve Clark to tie things up.
In the second half, tired legs on both sides started to affect the defending, which showed out in one particularly egregious error from Orlando City. Around the 66th minute, a Portland corner kick found a wide open Eryk Williamson in the box, who was able to take a strike on goal. While it initially deflected off a defender, it finally made it to the feet of Dario Župarić, who was able to guide the ball into the back of the net for the eventual game winner.
Orlando didn’t exactly lay down and die after falling behind but it couldn’t find the equalizer, which meant it was the Timbers’ time to celebrate after the final whistle.
Portland earned its first title in MLS since winning the 2015 MLS Cup.
Portland has earned a spot in the 2021 CONCACAF Champions League for winning the month-long World Cup-style tournament that was played entirely without fans in attendance.