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One day down, two more to go in the first round of the 2021 MLS Cup playoffs.
In the Western Conference on Sunday, #4 seed Portland Timbers will host #5 seed Minnesota United.
Don’t let the standings fool you though.
Although Portland only sit one spot above Minnesota, they also have a six-point gap between their upcoming opponents.
Coupled with a home-field advantage, and an in-form key player like Sebastian Blanco, this should be Portland’s to win.
Minnesota will be sure to run into some trouble soon.
Portland for the victory (-110)
How are both teams heading into the 2021 playoffs?
Looking at Minnesota, they’re a side who have been inconsistent for most of the season.
Unlike others who sit above them in the Western Conference table, they’ve never been able to string 3+ victories in a row this year.
Minnesota have had enough points to sneak through the postseason with a 13W-10D-11L record, but it would be a stretch to say that they’ve shown consistency.
Things have been a bit better for Portland.
Following a shaky start to 2021, they’ve quickly picked up their pace with 10 wins and a draw in their last 14 matches.
Since late August, they’ve taken charge and made drastic improvements in the attack.
So what has changed?
Their key to success has been a crucial playmaker that now looks fully fit after recovering from an injury.
Blanco is ready for the playoffs.
After shaking off injury concerns, the 33-year-old has been brilliant for the Timbers with four goals and four assists in his last eight appearances.
Capable of making something out of nothing, the attacking midfielder is on a superb run of form as Portland sprint into the postseason.
His latest match might be a sign of things to come as well.
True to his #10 jersey, Blanco was decisive with his goal and assist in a 3-0 win over Austin in Portland’s final game of the regular season.
It’s a fair question.
In their last seven away games, Minnesota only have one single victory — a narrow 1-0 win over the second-worst team in the Western Conference, Austin FC.
These issues go beyond their last handful of games as well.
If we take a look at only away matches this season, Minnesota would be ninth in the Western Conference with three wins from 17.
Minnesota have problems in these types of scenarios, and with their usual style of play that can throw numbers forward, they are regularly vulnerable to counters or teams counter-pressing.
Whether it be in MLS or a massive international competition, It’s a well-known assumption that teams with more momentum do well in a knockout round.
As for now, Portland have the upper hand over Minnesota.
The Timbers have three consecutive victories, and, 10 wins in their last 14 matches.
As for Minnesota, there’s a bit of the usual irregularity from them in the last couple of months.
They’ve claimed one win in their last four outings and have allowed seven goals during that run right before the playoffs.
With that in mind, advantage Portland on Sunday.
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|Portland Timbers vs Minnesota United Information|
|Teams||Portland Timbers vs Minnesota United|
|Location||Providence Park (Portland, Oregon)|
|Time||Sunday, November 21st at 2:30 pm PT/5:30 pm ET|
|How to Watch||ESPN, ESPN Deportes|
Freelance writer Cesar Hernandez is a specialist in all things American and Mexican soccer. He has written for ESPN FC, The Athletic, The Guardian, FourFourTwo, VICE Sports and several other publications. Along with writing and previous radio appearances on the BBC, talkSPORT and SiriusXM FC, Cesar is also a member of the Mexican Soccer Show podcast. Email: [email protected]More info on Cesar Hernandez
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