Sports

NYCFC Beat Portland In A Thrilling MLS Cup Final

After 90 minutes of regulation, half an hour of extra time, and penalty kicks, New York City Football Club took down the Portland Timbers to win MLS Cup. Despite the Timbers playing host in Providence Park, one of the cathedrals of American soccer, NYCFC was able to head west and lift a trophy for the first time in the club’s history.

It was a cagey affair with both teams struggling to unlock the other, but ultimately, the visitors were able to strike first. With just minutes left until halftime, NYCFC got a set piece from several yards outside of the Timbers’ box. Maxi Moralez whipped in a ball that connected with the head of the league’s joint most prolific goalscorer this season, Valentin Castellanos. While one can easily argue that Portland’s Steve Clark should have done better, Castellanos was able to get enough on the ball to make life difficult on the Timbers’ keeper. The ball ended up rolling into the corner of the net to put the Pigeons up, 1-0.

The story of the second half was Portland’s total inability to really challenge New York. Plenty of credit was due to NYCFC, but the Timbers just could not find the final moment of magic necessary to draw level.

And then, that moment arrived. With no more than a few seconds remaining in injury time, Claudio Bravo lofted a ball into the box that found the head of Yimmi Chara. His sole goal seemed to be to get it into a dangerous area and hope something happens, and after Larrys Mabiala rose high to get his chest to it, a mad scramble ensued that ended in Felipe Mora getting as clean a shot on target as you’ll see. Sean Johnson couldn’t do anything about it, and as a result, Providence Park exploded.

NYCFC appeared to have a legitimate point about Mabiala getting to the ball at the expense of Maxime Chanot, who lost his mind and wanted a foul called. But it was not given, and as a result, the two sides needed some more time to determine a winner. Neither Portland nor NYCFC were able to break the deadlock, though, with the visitors failing to create a major scoring opportunity and Johnson denying Cristhian Paredes when the home side had its best chance of the extra frames.

In penalties, Castellanos buried the first attempt for NYCFC, while Mora was denied by Johnson right from the jump. That edge for the visitors was short-lived, as Clark stopped Alfredo Morales … but Johnson came up huge his next time out, denying Timbers legend Diego Valeri.

After Moralez beat Clark and Santiago Moreno became the first Portland player to beat Johnson, precocious Brazilian Talles Magno scored to start round four and put the Timbers in a situation where they needed to be perfect to have a chance. Paredes held up his end of the bargain by converting his penalty, but New York City sent center back Alexander Callens up with a chance to win. The Peru international was cold as ice, and as a result, NYCFC are champions.

The team will get to start defending its title soon enough, as the 2022 MLS season begins on Feb. 26.

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