The headlines for Group F of the MLS Is Back Tournament went to the two Los Angeles teams, but Portland and Houston stole the thunder by getting results in the first round of games on Monday. Now the Dynamo and Timbers go head-to-head on Saturday with a chance to take control of the group.
In Portland’s case, they can wrap up a knockout stage spot with a win and an LA Derby draw. Portland will face LAFC, while Houston plays LA Galaxy in the final game of the group stage.
In 2019, Houston and Portland played twice in the regular season, and the first game resulted in a 1-1 draw. A month later, Portland crushed Houston 4-0 at home en route to a playoff spot. The teams split 2018 matches as the home team won each game.
Portland Timbers FC Outlook: Capitalize
The Portland Timbers picked up three points against the LA Galaxy in the first game as Steve Clark saved a penalty in the first half, and LA had two second-half goals waved off for offsides. In between, Portland put two goals on the board as Jeremy Ebobisse scored in the 59th minute, and Sebastian Blanco netted seven minutes later.
The Galaxy got on the board later after Portland went down to 10 men, but Clark prevented LA from tying the game.
Portland began the season with a tough 3-1 home loss to Minnesota United and a 1-0 home win over Nashville. Captain Diego Valeri scored both of those goals, one from the spot, and Andy Polo had an assist, but Portland put just six shots on goal combined in two games.
Last season, the Timbers made the playoffs in the Western Conference but lost to Real Salt Lake in their lone playoff game. Ebobisse had 11 goals, the most by any returning Timbers player last season. Portland used multiple goalies as Clark started 24 of the 34 games with six clean sheets and 13 wins.
Houston Dynamo Outlook: Play Like the First Half
Houston got off to a splendid start in the first half on Monday against LAFC, which entered the MLS is Back Tournament as the overall betting favorites. Memo Rodriguez scored twice in the first 30 minutes, and Alberth Elis gave Houston a 3-1 lead at the break.
But the game ended in a 3-3 tie as LAFC scored twice in a six-minute span against Mark Maric in the second half.
Houston did not play well outside of Texas in 2019, and that trend continued in March as they lost at Sporting KC 4-0. They did pick up a 1-1 home draw against LA Galaxy before the COVID break but are still looking for their first win of 2020.
Last season Houston won twice away from home and finished in 10th place in the West as they missed the playoffs. The Dynamo had a -10 goal differential and were led in scoring by Mauro Manotas with 13 goals and seven assists.
Maric is new in goal this season after last year’s keeper, Joe Willis, was traded to Nashville in the offseason.
Portland Timbers/Houston Dynamo Betting Lines
- Portland Timbers -106 to win
- Houston Dynamo +225 to win
- Draw +261
- Over/Under 2.5 goals (O -123, U -106)
These teams combined to score five goals in their first group game, and Houston’s leaky defense has allowed seven goals in their last two games. Portland can go for broke with one win already in its back pocket, while Houston is desperate for its first win of the season and to take some pressure off the last group stage game. Sports bettors should look at the over as the play in this one.
FREE PICK: Over 2.5 goals (-123)