The Portland Timbers took down Orlando City 2-1 to take home the trophy for the MLS is Back Tournament at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex on Tuesday night.
Goals from Larrys Mabiala and Dario Zuparic helped the Timbers to the win in MLS' bubble tournament in Orlando and a guaranteed spot in the 2021 CONCACAF Champions League along with a nice return of prize money to the tune of $300,000.
However, Orlando struck back ahead of half-time with a goal from Mauricio Pereyra, who showed great balance to keep his feet after taking a stumble and then redirecting Nani's cross past Steve Clark to make it 1-1 at the break.
Portland's pressure got the best of Orlando midway through the second half when the ball fell to Zuparic inside the six-yard box and he poked home to give the Timbers the lead.
The Timbers, who spent 39 days in the MLS bubble and remained on West Coast time, hugged, danced and doused each other with water after the final whistle. They later raised the silver trophy on the pitch.
It provided a lasting memory for the MLS, which managed to play 51 matches in 45 days in Orlando.
But it was by most accounts a rousing success, especially considering how it started. FC Dallas and Nashville were forced to withdraw days before the start because of positive coronavirus tests.
Players, coaches and support personnel were tested regularly inside the MLS bubble. The league reported just two positives out of nearly 35,000 tests following the initial setbacks that threatened to derail a tournament that came with a $1.1 million purse.
Orlando's appearance in the finale was a surprise considering the team finished 11th out of 12 in the East last season and fired coach James O'Connor. Oscar Pareja took over in 2020 and has made an immediate impact.
Pareja convinced his players, including star Nani, to settle into the bubble several days early. They won the tournament opener, a group-stage victory against Miami, and ended up spending nearly seven weeks quarantined in the bubble.
Portland's experience -- the Timbers won the MLS title in 2015 and were runners-up two years ago -- showed in the finale.
The league's 26 teams will play 18 games apiece after leaving Orlando. A majority of the games will be played without fans because of local regulations, but the Dallas-Nashville match will have fans in the stands.
Teams will be subject to a rigorous testing protocol and will use charter flights or buses for travel to limit outside contact.
"We have to see if it works," MLS Commissioner Don Garber said. "If it does, we go through with it. If it doesn't, we'll have to adjust."
Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.