Atlanta United vs Portland Timbers live on Sky Sports Football at 1am Sunday
By Harry Gray
Last Updated: 08/12/18 1:41pm
Atlanta United will look to win their maiden MLS Cup title when they take on Portland Timbers at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Sunday, live on Sky Sports.
Having won the Eastern Conference play-offs with a 3-1 aggregate victory over New York Red Bulls, United come into the game on the back of a run of one defeat in their last five games.
The Timbers, meanwhile, are targeting a second MLS Cup triumph to add to their success in 2015 which came by way of a 2-1 defeat of Columbus Crew.
They progressed to the final, which kicks off at 1am Sunday, in dramatic fashion after Diego Valeri scored in the ninth minute of second-half stoppage-time to seal a 3-2 win over Sporting Kansas City.
That triumph was disrupted when Kansas fans threw objects at the Portland players, forcing referee Mark Gieger to briefly bring the game to a halt and take both sets of players off the field.
Who to watch
Not even the great Zlatan Ibrahimovic has been able to keep up with Josef Martinez this term, with the Atlanta forward scoring 31 times over the course of the regular season and play-offs.
The Venezuelan’s form has been devastating but he has been far from alone in firing United to the cusp of MLS glory.
For many, Miguel Almiron has been the man to watch and he has provided the ammunition for Martinez from his midfield berth.
His form has attracted admiring glances from the Premier League and Arsenal have been linked with a move for the 24-year-old.
The Timbers will rely heavily on their play-off hero Valeri – an MLS Cup winner in 2015 – in Atlanta and the midfielder leads the way in goals (10) and assists (12).
He’s been ably supported by Sebastian Blanco, who also boasts 10 goals to add to a haul of 11 assists.
Who will win
The firepower of Martinez and creative class of Almiron means United will fancy their chances of claiming a first title.
An easier run to the final, which saw them take a 3-0 lead into their second leg with Red Bulls, could also work in their favour.
Portland finished fifth in the Western Conference so won’t mind the idea of being underdogs.
Atlanta United: 1/4 with Sky Bet.
Atlanta lost just seven games across the regular season to finish second in the Eastern Conference and made easy work of their route through the play-offs.
The Timbers, by contrast, have provided the entertainment and required penalties to beat Seattle Sounders ahead of their dramatic defeat of Sporting.
They have, though, developed a resilience which has seen them lose just one of their nine games.