Baer: Your early 2018 MLS Cup preview

MLS Cup - 2018 - matchup image - ATLvPOR

2018 MLS Cup is set: Atlanta United will be hosting the Portland Timbers on Dec. 8 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium (8 pm ET | FOX, UniMás, TSN, TVAS).

The Five Stripes have reached MLS Cup in just their second season while the Timbers will be playing in their second MLS Cup after winning the Philip F. Anschutz trophy in 2015 against Columbus Crew SC at MAPFRE Stadium. They were the first team to win MLS Cup on the road after the league changed the match from a neutral site to the home of the team that accrued more points during the regular season.

In their lone matchup of 2018, the Timbers came to Atlanta and drew 1-1 on June 24. Larrys Mabiala provided the Timbers' goal on a rebound off a set piece, while Julian Gressel scored after a scramble in the box.

The Timbers lined up in a 3-5-2, a formation that Giovanni Savarese hasn't employed for months, that included Samuel Armenteros, Lawrence Olum, Cristhian Paredes and Julio Cascante in the starting XI. ATL UTD lined up in a 4-2-3-1 that included Ezequiel Barco and Mikey Ambrose. The teams also drew 1-1 last year at Providence Park.

Atlanta went 11-2-4 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in MLS regular season play this season and won both of their home games in the Audi 2018 MLS Cup Playoffs so far. Across all competitions, they have amassed a 25-6-8 home record in their history. The Timbers went 4-8-5 on the road during the regular season, including wins at Seattle and Real Salt Lake, and they added to that win total on Thursday thanks to their 3-2 win against Sporting Kansas City in the second leg of the Western Conference Championship.

This will be the first MLS Cup appearances for both head coaches, but both have plenty of previous experience in finals. Giovanni Savarese will be making his fifth final appearance in six years, after leading the NASL's New York Cosmos to four Soccer Bowls.

Tata Martino has a more checkered history in finals in recent years, having lost three Copa America finals with Paraguay and Argentina. He also lost the 2014 Copa del Rey final while coaching FC Barcelona.

Portland have nine players who have won an MLS Cup final, eight coming from their 2015 championship team, while Atlanta sport two winners with Jeff Larentowicz (2010) and Darlington Nagbe, who was part of the Timbers' 2015 team.