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MLS Cup Final preview: Timbers prepared to strike

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Things are going to get real loud in Georgia by the time 8 p.m. ET rolls around on Saturday night.

That’s when Atlanta United tangles with Portland Timbers, the Georgian outfit a heavy favorite to win its first MLS Cup and send Tata Martino, Miguel Almiron, and probably a few others away from United as all-time heroes (though they already qualify given their star power and the new nature of the club).

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Standing in their way? One of the most storied clubs in modern American soccer, guided by a first-time MLS manager whose outfoxed plenty of coaches in his day. Giovanni Savarese may not carry the name accolades of Martino’s but the job he’s done in Portland has surprised many and he deserves to have a shot of winning MLS Cup.

And lest we forget that Martino has been out-foxed in finals before: The 2013 Copa del Rey final and three Copa America finals, with the Spanish Super Cup for Barcelona against Atletico Madrid standing as his big final victory. The Copa America finals were Argentina twice losing to Chile in PKs, and with Paraguay blown out by highly-favored Uruguay; The Copa del Rey was Barca’s late loss to Real Madrid in Valencia.

Savarese has won three NASL titles with the New York Cosmos, who were admittedly the favorites each time. And his Timbers have won an MLS Cup away from home, claiming the 2015 final against Columbus with several players still in green and white on the roster (Diego Valeri, Jorge Villafana, Diego Chara, Lucas Melano, Jake Gleeson).

So, yes, Atlanta is the favorite to win, but don’t sleep on Portland in a one-off game with plenty of rest and time to prepare for a tactical challenge.


Regular season

Portland – 15W-10L-9T – +6 GD – 4W-8L-5T away

Atlanta – 21W-7L-6T – +26 GD – 11W-2L-4T home


Head-to-head

June 24 — D 1-1 in Atlanta — Goals: Mabiala (32′), Gressel (56′)


Playoffs

Atlanta
Beat NYCFC 4-1 (1-0, 3-1)
Beat RBNY 3-1 (3-0, 0-1)

Portland
Beat Dallas 2-1
Beat Seattle 4-4 (2-1, 2-3)
Beat Sporting KC 3-2 (0-0, 3-2)


Reports say Martino is still Mexico’s man; Did Garber confirm it?

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It’s been no secret that Gerardo “Tata” Martino was probably going to leave Atlanta United after his second season in charge of the bunch.

So reports that he’s taking the Mexico men’s national team job are nothing new, but leave it to — Ives Galarcep’s words not mine — MLS commissioner Don Garber to basically confirm his hire.

[ MORE: USMNT player ratings | 3 things ]

Assuming it all comes true, this is going to be the subplot of the USMNT-Mexico rivalry for some time. There’s little doubt Mexican is knee-deep in its golden generation compared to the USMNT, which is just reaching the potential of it with Christian Pulisic, Josh Sargent, Weston McKennie, and Tyler Adams.

After these quotes, it’s very difficult to believe Mexico’s next coach will anyone but the successful Argentina, Barcelona, and Paraguay boss.

Men in Blazers podcast: Mourinho’s day at Chelsea, stylish Arsenal, Tata leaving ATL

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Rog and Davo break down Chelsea’s last gasp draw against Manchester United and Jose Mourinho’s contentious return to Stamford Bridge. Plus, wins for City and Liverpool, Arsenal’s poetic football, and Tata is saying goodbye to the ATL.

All of the MiB content — pods, videos and stories can be seen here, but to really stay in touch, follow, subscribe, click here:

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Atlanta’s Bocanegra responds to Martino to Mexico reports

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Another report claims that Tata Martino will take the Mexican national team job, and puts a date on the start of employment.

David Medrano of Azteca Deportes has the report, saying that Martino will be announced as Mexico boss on Dec. 8 (the date of the MLS Cup Final).

[ MORE: USMNT-Italy to be hosted in Belgium ]

Atlanta United technical director Carlos Bocanegra did his best not to comment on the report in a Tuesday radio appearances, saying the Five Stripes have been having “ongoing discussions” with Martino.

From 929thegame.radio.com:

“It’s all good. There’s all kind of rumors, for our coach, for our players, for everything. I guess that means we’re relevant in the soccer world at the moment, which is a good thing. We’ve been having ongoing discussions. We can’t control what goes on in the rumor mill but we’re doing our job. Tata’s our manager, and going forward we’re looking to get into the playoffs with the Supporters’ Shield under our belt and that’s about as much as it is right now.”

As recently as Sept. 28, Martino had said he hadn’t had discussions with anyone outside Atlanta.

He has also been linked with the Colombia job, while several have connected the dots between the USMNT job and Martino‘s expiring contract in ATL.

As for how hard it would be to replace Martino? Bocanegra seems to think it won’t be as difficult as some fear.

“Each coach has a unique style. We have a philosophy and a way of playing as a club. Within that, you try to put people in place that fit that style, fit that philosophy. That’s where Tata fit nicely. Each coach out there will put his own spin on things but it’s the club that has the long-term vision, playing the younger players.”

Report: Martino to leave Atlanta, national team job looms

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Tata Martino’s future has been debated for some time.

Would he elect to stay with Atlanta United beyond the season? Would national team duty call? And if so, would it be the USMNT? A return to Argentina?

[ UCL: Real rocks Roma, Man City falls ]

Now ESPN is reporting that Martino will leave Atlanta United at the end of this season, opening another high profile MLS job next to the LA Galaxy vacancy.

Presuming he wants to leave Atlanta, which option is most attractive?

  • Mexico and the USMNT are both on the precipice of golden generations, assuming they pick the right shepherd. El Tri is a bit further along in the process than the U.S., and it would be an easy selection.
  • Argentina is Martino’s home, and he’s held the job before. Would the idea of melding Lionel Messi’s final prime throes with Paulo Dybala to try and claim a first Copa America since 1993 be enough?
  • Colombia would also face the test of World Cup qualifying in CONMEBOL, and is a pretty packed side. James Rodriguez (27), Yerry Mina (23), and Davinson Sanchez (22) will be around for the long haul, while Juan Cuadrado and Radamel Falcao are still productive.