Atlanta or Portland: ESPN analysts make their MLS Cup predictions

The regular season has been over for more than a month, the two-legged portion of the playoffs now complete -- pausing for last month's international break -- so now all that's left to do is contest for the MLS Cup. So with the Portland Timbers traveling to Mercedes-Benz Stadium to take on Atlanta United, we've asked a handful of contributors and analysts to predict who will lift this year's big trophy.

Atlanta United

It just seems like Atlanta's time. It will be playing at home in front of raucous support. Granted, that's not a guarantee of anything, especially given concerns over Michael Parkhurst's injury status, but given the attacking talent the Five Stripes have, as well as the desire to send Tata Martino out a winner, I think they'll prevail. -- Jeff Carlisle (@JeffreyCarlisle)

If you want to feel what home-field advantage is all about, then walk into Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Dec. 8. Even if Portland is able to ignore over 70,000 passionate Atlanta United fans, it still has to deal with the most explosive team in the league. I love what Giovanni Savarese and his team have done in their playoff run, but they will come up just short. Simply put, at its best, Atlanta is better than everybody else in MLS. -- Alejandro Moreno (@AleMorenoESPN)

If Atlanta has shown us anything this postseason, it's its ability to adapt to any opponent. It can sit back in its line of five, and counter with the league's best player (Miguel Almiron) running the point, or completely suffocate you with possession. It is as dynamic a team as we've ever seen in this league. Everyone will expect guys like Josef Martinez and Almiron to be the difference makers in this matchup, but it will be the likes of Franco Escobar and Greg Garza that will be key for Tata Martino -- that and 72,000 other reasons. -- Herculez Gomez (@herculezg)

The Atlanta defense will be tested by Portland's playmakers on counterattacks, but thus far in the playoffs, Tata Martino's back line has shown it is up to the challenge. In attack, the friendly confines of Mercedes-Benz Stadium will suit game-breakers Miguel Almiron and Josef Martinez, who should make the difference. Atlanta United 2-1 Portland Timbers. -- Arch Bell (@ArchBell)

Home venue for Atlanta, 70,000-plus cheering them on, battle of the two superstars for Atlanta in Miguel Almiron and Josef Martinez versus Diego Valeri and Sebastian Blanco for Portland. I think that Atlanta defense and protection in front of them is better equipped to handle Portland, while the Timbers' defense with Liam Ridgewell and Bill Tuiloma at the heart will find the pace of the Five Stripes on the break too hot to handle. -- Paul Mariner (@Paul_Mariner)

Tata Martino rides off into the sunset with a championship trophy, lifted by goals from Josef Martinez and Julian Gressel. Miguel Almiron is the game's best player, of course. Atlanta United 2-1 Portland Timbers. -- Noah Davis (@noahedavis)

Atlanta is too good, especially at home -- where half the time, Miguel Almiron looks like he's speed skating on that turf -- for me to pick against it here. I think we get a tense opening half hour, and a tense last few minutes as Portland scrambles for a late equalizer, but Atlanta United to win 2-1. Miguel Almiron says farewell in style, getting MLS Cup MVP honors on his way out. - Sebastian Salazar (@SebiSalazarFUT)

Portland Timbers

Atlanta United is more talented, and emerged from the tougher conference. Portland, though, has a sense of inevitably about it right now, a team-of-destiny vibe I just can't shake. The Timbers have done just enough in each of the past two rounds to advance. They'll do so again on MLS' biggest stage. Atlanta United 1-1 Portland Timbers, Portland wins on penalties. -- Matt Pentz (@mattpentz)