Forward Mason Toye and the Minnesota United play Orlando City SC in the semifinal of the MLS Is Back Tournament. Photo by Andy Witchger (Wiki Commons).
- Orlando City and Minnesota United will fight it out on August 6 for a place in the MLS Is Back final
- It’s the Adrian Heath cup final, as Minnesota United head coach formerly was in charge of Orlando
- Read on for a match preview, analysis and a betting pick
As a player for England’s Everton in the 1980s, Adrian Heath was no stranger to winning titles, with league championship and cup winners’ medals all coming his way.
But neither Minnesota United, his current team, nor Orlando City SC, his old club, have ever lifted silverware at the MLS level. Consequently, Thursday’s semifinal at the MLS Is Back tournament represents a real opportunity for one or the other to take one giant step towards a breakthrough success.
Orlando City vs Minnesota United Odds
|Team||Odds at DraftKings|
|Orlando City SC||+148|
Odds from August 3
Why Orlando Will Win
With zero playoff appearances in five MLS seasons, Orlando City is one of the most surprising developments of the entire MLS Is Back tournament.
The Semifinals are SET!
Who’s winning it all? 🏆 pic.twitter.com/kTghVZnIeb
— Major League Soccer (@MLS) August 2, 2020
As the de facto home team playing at the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex, near to the Exploria Stadium it calls home in a non-pandemic world, Orlando has relied on some outstanding performances by Nani. The former Manchester United winger has been front and center for the Lions in everything they’ve done, from scoring the winner in Orlando’s tournament opener, creating the match-winning goal in the round of 16 before converting the shootout winner in the quarter-final.
First-year head coach Oscar Pareja seems to have everyone on the same page so far, with designated players like Nani and central playmaker Mauricio Pereyra playing like the most influential players on the team that they are.
He’s also infused his team with a winning mentality and a stronger backbone. Orlando dropped 17 points during games in which is held second-half leads last year. Operating with much the same squad as last season, where the Lions finished second-bottom in the East, Pareja has developed a team that has a perfect 3-0-0 record in games where it has a second-half edge this year.
Orlando City vs Minnesota Head-to-Head Stats
|11.6||Shots Per game||13.6|
|4.4||Shots On Target Per Game||6.2|
Why Minnesota Will Win
Despite a whole host of injuries to its roster, including the likes of Kevin Molino, Ike Opara and Romain Metanire, Minnesota United continues to upset the form guide and just keeps winning.
Still unbeaten throughout 2020, head coach Adrian Heath has his team peaking at just the right time. With one playoff appearance in three MLS seasons, the Loons have been the underdog in each of their playoff games so far, overcoming the Columbus Crew in a shootout in the round of 16 before crushing the San Jose Earthquakes 4-1 in the quarterfinal.
andddddd STILL undefeated pic.twitter.com/DbNu94r3LH
— Minnesota United FC (@MNUFC) August 2, 2020
One of the keys to the team’s success in the knockout rounds has been getting in front early. Against the Crew, Robin Lod got Minnesota on the board in the 18th minute, and in the next game Lod was at it again, putting the Loons in front after 20 minutes.
That has allowed the team to embrace a backs-against-the-wall mentality, hanging on for dear life at times. But it’s been effective, and now the Loons are two wins away from Heath touching silverware once again.
Prove them right or prove them wrong. 📊
— Major League Soccer (@MLS) August 3, 2020
Minnesota also has a very slight edge in knockout-competition pedigree, reaching the U.S. Open final in 2019 before losing narrowly to Atlanta United. Atlanta had knocked out Orlando in the semi, the closest the Lions have got to a trophy.
As teams in opposing conferences, the two sides have met just three times in their history. But the success has been all Minnesota’s, with two wins and one draw, a 1-1 result last August in Minnesota.
Both those wins have been close though, with Minnesota claiming a 1-0 home win in 2017, followed by a 2-1 victory a year later.
Pick: Minnesota United (+165); O 3.5 (+175)
For the last 20 years, Paul Attfield has worked in sports media. Starting out in his native Britain with the likes of The Independent, he eventually switched continents, with his work appearing in the likes of the Los Angeles Times, Washington Post and Yahoo Sports since.