NYCFC are champions of the MLS Cup after defeating the Portland Timbers in penalties (4-2) in the MLS Cup Final on Saturday afternoon at Providence Park. The magical run continued for the Timbers when Portland drew the match at 1-1 in the final kick of regulation but the jubilation turned to heartbreak after overtime.
The sellout crowd of 25,218 attendees was incredible from start to finish, all the praise put upon Portland as a soccer city manifested throughout Saturday. While the squad in sky-blue eventually lifted the cup the Timbers and their fans must be proud of their achievements in a unique season. Portland is now 1-2 in MLS Cup Finals.
Portland was dealt a nice hand to start the game with powerful attacker Dairon Asprilla back from suspension and star-man Sebastian Blanco fit enough to start the match.
NYCFC was not deterred by the Portland star-power or by the hectic cold, rainy weather, rather they excelled from the offset. The first 20 minutes of the match was all NYCFC and multiple chances came from it. Portland had moments in the second part of the opening half but NYCFC achieved the goal that felt inevitable.
The goal marked Valentin Castellanos’s third goal in as many playoff games. The MLS golden boat winner was a problem for Portland all afternoon, and his MLS Cup winner put a bowtie on his 19-goal campaign when he scored the first goal in PKs.
Through 70 minutes, nearly every time Portland tried to build out, NYCFC swarmed the men in green and gold. The NYCFC press was the primary reason for keeping the Timbers at bay for the majority of the game and was an impressive managerial display from Ronny Delia.
For the first time this postseason, Portland entered the break trailing and while Portland showed life out of the half, it was evident NYCFC was happy to ease off the breaks and be content to hold possession.
That NYCFC decision looked like the right one for 93 minutes. Portland put just their second shot of the game on target in the final action of the game and magic ensued.
Mora missed chances down the stretch but with the final kick of the game, he etched his name in MLS history with one of the most dramatic and memorial goals to send the contest to overtime. During overtime, all the momentum was on Portland’s side but the goal didn’t arrive and penalties were up next.
In penalties, Portland missed their first two attempts to Sean Johnson’s right side while NYCFC scored their first but missed the second. NYCFC held onto their 2-1 PK lead and although Portland converted their next two so did NYCFC marking their first-ever MLS Cup victory.
This will sting for the Portland Timbers but the Western Conference Champions will have a speedy offseason before kicking off the 2022 campaign against New England in late February.