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Portland Timbers vs New York City FC: 2021 MLS Cup final possible line-ups; injuries & suspensions

Portland Timbers are after a second league title when they host Saturday's 2021 MLS Cup final against New York City, who are in the fixture for the first time.

Dec 9, 2021; Portland, OR, USA; Portland Timbers midfielder Sebastian Blanco (10), head coach Giovanni Savarese, and Yimmi Chara (23) pose for a photo during a press conference at Providence Park. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports
Soobum ImUSA TODAY Sports

Portland Timbers are likely to welcome Sebastián Blanco back from injury when they host the MLS Cup final for the first time on Saturday, while opponents New York City FC, who have never previously appeared in the championship game, will be boosted by Valentín ‘Taty’ Castellanos’ return to availability at Providence Park.

Timbers, who qualified for this weekend’s showpiece event by beating Real Salt Lake in last Saturday’s Western Conference final, have been to two previous MLS Cup finals, winning their only league title so far when they defeated Columbus Crew in Columbus in 2015.

Portland then went down to Atlanta United at Mercedes-Benz Stadium three years later, and now have a maiden opportunity to lift the MLS Cup on home soil, having won hosting rights because their 2021 regular-season record is better than NYCFC’s.

See also:

Timbers very strong at home in MLS playoffs

The last four MLS Cup finals have been won by the home team - and Portland’s recent record at Providence Park also offers cause for optimism among the Timbers Army that they will be celebrating a second league championship on Saturday night.

Portland’s total of 11 home victories in the 2021 regular season was bettered only by Supporters’ Shield winners New England Revolution, and Giovanni Saverese’s men are now on a run of four straight wins at their stadium. MLSSoccer.com’s Matthew Doyle also points out that Timbers are 9-2 in MLS postseason games at Providence Park since 2011. It’s additionally worth noting that they have won five out of their six previous meetings with NYCFC.

NYCFC have form for upsetting strongly-fancied hosts

However, although New York City go to Portland with the apparent status of underdogs, it shouldn’t be forgotten that their run to a first ever MLS Cup final has seen them claim road wins over the Eastern Conference’s first and second seeds: New England, whose 73 regular-season points is an MLS record, and Philadelphia Union.

NYCFC, who won their first Eastern Conference title with a 2-1 triumph over Philadelphia last Sunday, are chasing their city’s first major sporting championship since 2011, when the NFL's New York Giants beat the New England Patriots to win Super Bowl XLVI.

New York City FC's players celebrate their Eastern Conference final win over Philadelphia Union.
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New York City FC's players celebrate their Eastern Conference final win over Philadelphia Union.Bill StreicherUSA TODAY Sports

2021 MLS Cup final team news

Portland Timbers

Blanco, who scored twice in Timbers’ first two games in the 2021 MLS playoffs, missed the Western Conference final win over RSL with a hamstring injury picked up in the semi-finals against Colorado Rapids. Speaking to reporters on Thursday, he was upbeat - if cautious - about his chances of returning for Timbers on Saturday.

"No matter what happens Saturday, if I can play or not, the important thing is to be ready to be part of what we need to support our team," Blanco said. “I’m OK, I feel good, I've prepared myself for this game.”

Timbers do not have any players suspended for the final. Dairon Asprilla was banned for the win over RSL after his sending-off against Colorado, but now returns to availability.

New York City FC

For NYCFC, the major team news is that 'Taty' Castellanos is back after serving a ban in the Eastern Conference final, having been dismissed in the Boys in Blues' semi-final victory over Nashville SC. The striker, who has 22 goals in all competitions for New York City this season, scored in both the first round and semis of the playoffs.

Anton Tinnerholm is out for the rest of the season with an Achilles injury sustained in October, while Keaton Parks is also on the sidelines for the remainder of 2021 after suffering a blod clot in his leg in November. Like Portland, NYCFC are suspension-free.

2021 MLS Cup final: possible line-ups

Portland Timbers: Clark, Van Rankin, Mabiala, Zuparic, Bravo, D. Chara, Paredes, Y. Chara, Blanco, Asprilla, Mora

New York City FC: Johnson, Gray, Chanot, Callens, Amundsen, Sands, Morales, Medina, Moralez, Rodríguez, Castellanos