To a man, FC Cincinnati are playing the underdog card heading into their Tuesday night match against the Portland Timbers in the Round of 16 of the MLS is Back Tournament near Orlando.
The tournament didn't start off on the right foot for FC Cincinnati (2-3-0 season, 2-1-0 tournament), who found themselves on the wrong end of a 4-0 rout by the Columbus Crew on July 11. The second-year club answered swiftly by posting consecutive shutout wins against Atlanta United and the New York Red Bulls to advance from Group E.
"We're the underdog here," FC Cincinnati midfielder Caleb Stanko said. "No one expected us to get any wins or goals or anything, and we've already proven that. I think all the pressure's on Portland. They're the ones that have to prove they deserve to be where they're at."
Portland (3-1-1, 10 points) secured the top spot in Group F after netting a late equalizer in a 2-2 draw with Los Angeles FC on Thursday to finish 2-0-1. The Timbers' reward for winning the group stage was avoiding a match against the reigning MLS Cup champion Seattle Sounders, instead booking a date versus FC Cincinnati.
The winner of the Tuesday match will oppose New York City FC in a quarterfinal on Saturday.
Forward Jeremy Ebobisse scored a goal in his career-best third straight match for Portland, which has tied the franchise record for most points (10) through five games in MLS play. The mark was first established in 2017.
"I think it's a team effort, and I know it's a cliche and strikers say it all the time, but ultimately when you look at the service I've gotten this tournament, it's been good, and luckily I've been sharp in front of goal thus far," said Ebobisse, 23.
Timbers midfielder/forward Sebastian Blanco can take those words as a compliment, considering he has notched an assist in each of his past three contests.
While Portland is considered the favorite heading into the match, FC Cincinnati can gain optimism from winning the lone previous matchup between the clubs. FC Cincinnati secured the franchise's first win courtesy of a 3-0 victory over the Timbers on March 17, 2019.
--Field Level Media