New York City FC was seconds away from its first-ever MLS Cup, only to concede the latest goal in MLS Cup history deep in stoppage time. But it survived extra time and beat the Portland Timbers in a penalty-kick shootout to take the Major League Soccer title home to the Big Apple for the city’s first major sports championship since 2011 (New York Giants).
NYCFC goalkeeper Sean Johnson stopped the first two penalty kicks in the shootout to lead his team to a 4-2 triumph on PKs after the 1-1 draw persisted through extra time. Defender Alexander Callens blasted home the winning attempt in front of the opposing Timbers Army supporters to give NYCFC its first trophy as a club since joining the league as an expansion team in 2015.
Watch the shootout in the video below:
It was an incredible rollercoaster of emotions for NYCFC’s players. They looked to have the match under control in regulation before the Timbers’ dramatic equalizer in second-half stoppage time scored by forward Felipe Mora, who was having an off day up to that point like the rest of his teammates in Portland’s attack. But the goal was not without controversy, with NYCFC defender Maxime Chanot arguing that he was fouled with an elbow to the head on the desperate ball that was floated into his penalty box.
The Timbers goal changed the momentum of the game in favor of Portland and it looked like the Timbers could pull out the win in extra time. But Johnson denied the Timbers on the best chance for either team in the 30-minute extra session: a curler by Cristhian Paredes in the 112th minute that the NYCFC ‘keeper parried away.
Portland was playing at home after compiling the better regular-season record, but it didn’t look like it in the first half. NYCFC, cheered on by a loud group of supporters who made the trek to the Pacific Northwest, was on the front foot from the start. The visitors had the better ideas with the ball at their feet, combining effectively in attack and looking like the more dangerous scoring threat. And they deservedly scored the opener four minutes before halftime.
The league’s top scorer, Valentin “Taty” Castellanos, who was returning from sitting out the Eastern Conference final due to suspension, headed home a set piece delivered into the box in the 41st minute. His downward header slipped through the hands of Timbers goalkeeper Steve Clark to give the visitors a lead which held up until the final seconds of regulation.
The Cityzens survived a challenging road to the final. They beat Atlanta United, and then ousted the best team in the regular season, the record-setting New England Revolution, on the road also via a penalty-kick shootout. NYCFC traveled again for the Eastern Conference final, using a last-minute goal to beat a decimated Philadelphia Union side and advance to its first-ever final.
“It was a crazy game. I think we had full control of the game for the 90 minutes. We were sure we were going to win it in 90 minutes and then [the Timbers] come in there [to score],” NYCFC manager Ronny Deila told ABC postgame before stripping down to his underwear as he had promised a while back. “We were broken, but we come back. This bunch of players are winners. They are fighting, they are honest. And you come so far with that desire to win.”
Portland Timbers vs. NYCFC — MLS Cup final score
NYC — Taty Castellanos (Maxi Moralez) — 41st min.
POR — Felipe Mora — 94th+ min.
(All times Eastern)
Penalty Kick Shootout: NYCFC wins 4-2 on PKs
Round 5 – NYC: Alexander Callens fires home and scores, and NYCFC wins it (NYC 4, POR 2)
Round 4 – POR: Cristhian Paredes blasts it into the net. Timbers are still alive (NYC 3, POR 2)
Round 4 – NYC: NYCFC teen Talles Magno with a stutter step and scores (NYC 3, POR 1)
Round 3 – POR: Portland’s Santiago Moreno scores his attempt (NYC 2, POR 1)
Round 3 – NYC: Maxi Moralez scores, sends Clark the other way (NYC 2, POR 0)
Round 2 – POR: Sean Johnson denies Portland’s Diego Valeri! (NYC 1, POR 0)
Round 2 – NYC: And now Portland’s Steve Clark stops Alfredo Morales’s attempt (NYC 1, POR 0)
Round 1 – POR: NYC’s Sean Johnson stops Felipe Mora’s effort (NYC 1, POR 0)
Round 1 – NYC: Taty Castellanos steps up and drills the first kick for NYCFC (NYC 1, POR 0)
PK Shootout: It’s happening in front of the Timbers Army. That should be an edge. NYCFC will kick first.
End of Extra Time: Portland 1, NYCFC 1 (a.e.t.)
120th min.: We’re heading to penalty kicks. No surprise that we didn’t get a decent chance aafter the one shot by Paredes.
112th min.: Best chance of the extra time falls for the Timbers. Paredes with the curler that NYCFC goalkeeper Sean Johnson dives to parry away.
106th min.: Second extra time period is underway.
105th min.: That’s the first period of extra time. Teams switch sides. But the momentum is still with Portland.
100th min.: Diego Valeri with a shot at the top of the box that’s deflected. It’d be some story if he got the winner. Meanwhile, here’s the local radio call of that Felipe Mora equalizer:
95th min.: SUB – NYCFC’s Talles Magno comes on for Jesus Medina. But it’s been one-way traffic to start extra time. The momentum is in Portland’s favor now.
91st min.: Extra time has kicked off. But some are claiming there should’ve been a foul whistled on that Timbers goal. Former referee Mark Clattenburg says on the ESPN broadcast that it should’ve been a foul by Larrys Mabiala on Maxime Chanot.
Can I say it? I like the call, but I think in regular season that goal is called back by VAR for foul on Mabiala 😬😬😬😬
— Stu Holden (@stuholden) December 11, 2021
Yes, it’s a foul. But it’s also the home team scoring an equalizer, in a final, and in the 95th minute. VAR read the room. #MLSCup
— Alexi Lalas (@AlexiLalas) December 11, 2021
Calling the foul there takes A LOT OF COJONES. I feel like 99 out of 100 refs won’t call it.
But the issue isn’t the ref, it’s VAR. VAR that will scrutinize the most insignificant moments to justify its use, but will go missing here. It’s SHOULD BE all or nothing. It’s not. https://t.co/OCz2IazyKP
— Nico Cantor (@Nicocantor1) December 11, 2021
Regulation: Portland 1, NYCFC 1
94th min.: Goal! Felipe Mora scores on a wild sequence in the box. The ball fell to him and he just blasted it home. And we’re heading to extra time! That was the latest goal ever scored during regulation in MLS Cup history.
94th min.: The four minutes of stoppage time have reached the final minute. Goalkeeper Steve Clark joins the attack for a corner, but nothing comes of it.
89th min.: SUB – Timbers legend Diego Valeri is now into the game.
87th min.: A Felipe Mora header goes over the bar. And here comes Diego Valeri into the match.
84th min.: SUB – Forward Jaroslaw Niezgoda coming in for Dairon Asprilla. Last-ditch effort for the Timbers.
82nd min.: Set piece into the box for Portland and Felipe Mora nearly got a touch on it in front of NYCFC goalkeeper Sean Johnson. It falls right into the ‘keeper’s hands. Time is ticking for the Timbers.
80th min.: SUB – After a Castellanos blast from distance goes wide, Santiago Rodriguez is subbed out with Ismael Tajouri-Shradi replacing him. Fresh legs on the wing for NYCFC.
75th min.: The Timbers’ attacks are hectic. Yimmi Chara went on the solo penetrating run, but was stuffed by defender Maxime Chanot in the box.
71st min.: After a half-chance for Portland in the box, a graphic pops up on the broadcast that Portland is 0W-23L-5D when trailing at the half in the last three seasons.
62nd min.: SUBS – Two for Portland. Sebastian Blanco comes off. Santiago Moreno takes his place. And Cristhian Paredes is on for George Fochive in central midfield.
Was it a mistake to start Sebastian Blanco?
— Andrew Wiebe (@andrew_wiebe) December 11, 2021
59th min.: First yellow card of the match to Josecarlos van Rankin, who chopped down Santiago Rodriguez.
53rd min.: Goalkeeper Steve Clark comes up with two stops for Portland. But the tension and nerves are growing for the Timbers.
53rd min.: Timbers want a hand ball called in the box. And replays showed they had a compelling case. The ball came off Maxime Chanot’s thigh and then hit his outstretched arm.
50th min.: Moralez set piece off the bar! That’s why he’s so important for NYCFC. It leads to a corner kick and Maxi delivered another dangerous ball, but the Timbers escape unscathed. No reaction from Portland just yet.
47th min.: The Portland Timbers confirm that the fan who threw the object at Jesus Medina was identified and ejected:
The fan who threw the object was ejected from the game, and has been banned from Providence Park. There is zero tolerance for behavior of that kind.
— Portland Timbers (@TimbersFC) December 11, 2021
46th min.: Second half underway. No subs. Maxi Moralez stays on the field.
Halftime: Portland 0, NYCFC 1
Halftime: Here’s the assessment of Portland’s coach Giovanni Savarese: “It’s unfortunate because we knew they are good in this [set piece] situation. We expected that ball [set piece] to get there. Unfortunately, we needed to be a little smarter not allow them to pick us. .. It felt like it was an even game. I felt we can do better things, but it feels like a pretty even game. We need a bit more mobility and to be more aggressive to try to get in behind them.”
Halftime: NYCFC bossed the game like it did on the road against No. 1-seed New England. It’s a deserved lead for the visitors, but Portland is going to have to take more chances in the second half. In the first half it was left up to Felipe Mora, Sebastian Blanco and Dairon Asprilla to make runs and come up with something in attack. Those players are going to need more help. Meanwhile, no one will be rooting harder than Timbers ‘keeper Steve Clark for his team to pull even. He’ll want that set piece back.
46th min.: Closest thing to a response by Portland is a rip from distance by Sebastian Blanco.
45th min.: Here’s the incident of the object thrown from the stands:
41st min.: Taty Castellanos scores for NYCFC! He heads home a Maxi Moralez set piece and Steve Clark can’t keep it out. And in the celebration, Jesus Medina looks like he was struck by an object thrown by a fan.
37th min.: Maxi Moralez looks injured for NYCFC. With eight minutes left in the first half, NYCFC may be forced into a sub. Talles Magno is warming up.
30th min.: No highlights to speak of a half-hour into this. NYCFC players move and combine well, pushing numbers forward, but the Timbers are relying on quick transitions. There’s just one shot on goal in the game, and that’s the Maxi Moralez shot after 30 seconds.
26th min.: Sebastian Blanco creating havoc with two crosses in the NYCFC box. The first causes issues for the ‘keeper, the second wins a corner, but nothing comes of it. Blanco is dangerous with the ball at his feet. You would never know he was coming off an injury.
24th min.: The explanation behind the pink smoke coming from the Timbers Army in the 24th minute:
The 24th minute was chosen based on the numbers Sinead Farrelly and Mana Shim wore when they played for the Thorns. The players reported coach Paul Riley’s sexual harassment to the Timbers/Thorns front office but he got to keep coaching in the #NWSL anyway. #MLSCupPlayoffs https://t.co/rt5YRF4Dsi
— Caitlin Murray (@caitlinmurr) December 5, 2021
21st min.: A shot of Hammerstein Ballroom in NYC, where NYCFC supporters are gathered for the final:
17th min.: Sebastian Blanco shot in the box is deflected and then Dairon Asprilla nearly gets on the ball in the box. First serious chance for Portland and we’re nearly 20 minutes in.
14th min.: NYCFC wants a yellow shown to George Fochive who commits his second hard foul in midfield. The ref doesn’t give it, but the next one will be a caution. This is just Fochive’s 12th start of the year.
12th min.: Another shout for a penalty for NYCFC. This time it’s Tayvon Gray and then Maxi Moralez who go down. The referee says play on in both cases. NYCFC has the clearest ideas when the team has the ball.
11th min.: NYCFC shouting for a hand ball after a cross was headed by Alexander Callens in the Portland box. But Armando Villarreal wasn’t having any of it.
8th min.: The game being played between the boxes here. Sloppy and frantic start to the game on both sides.
1st min.: We’re off. Thirty seconds in and NYCFC’s Maxi Moralez already tests Portland’s Steve Clark, who holds on. You can tell NYCFC isn’t wasting any time testing the ‘keeper given the conditions.
3:29 p.m.: Teams are on the field. We’re just minutes away.
3:15 p.m.: The trophy inflatable popped. Meanwhile, the game will start at 3:33 p.m. ET after the UCONN-UCLA basketball game.
2:55 p.m.: Providence Park is already rocking. And we’re only into warmups:
2:40 p.m.: We’ll see if the MLS Cup inflatable can survive the wind:
12:58 p.m.: Sound up on this video to get a feel for the weather in Portland for the final:
12:34 p.m.: NYCFC fans making noise in the Portland streets:
12:30 p.m.: This is the level of anticipation from Portland ahead of the first final played in PDX:
12:15 p.m.: Here are the hype videos for this final, one for each team. Sound up:
Noon: One of MLS’s best referees in recent years will be overseeing the final:
Portland Timbers vs. NYCFC lineups
Sebastian Blanco starts for the Timbers. He said he was fully recovered from the hamstring injury that kept him out of the Western Conference final and the Timbers are rolling him out there with Santiago Moreno making way. They’ll also have winger Dairon Asprilla back from suspension, but regular holding midfielder Cristhian Paredes has a calf issue and is replaced by George Fochive , who has just 11 starts all season.
Portland Timbers starting lineup (4-2-3-1, left to right): 12-Steve Clark-GK (captain) — 5-Claudio Bravo, 13-Dario Zuparic, 33-Larrys Mabiala, 22-Josecarlos van Rankin — 20-George Fochive, 21-Diego Chara (captain) — 10-Sebastian Blanco, 23-Yimmi Chara, 27-Dairon Asprilla — 9-Felipe Mora
Portland Timbers subs (9): 31-Aljaz Ivacic (GK), 28-Pablo Bonilla (RB), 85-Zac McGraw (CB), 25-Bill Tuiloma (CB), 22-Cristhian Paredes (CDM), 8-Diego Valeri (CAM), 30-Santiago Moreno (LW / RW), 44-Marvin Loria (LW / RW), 11-Jaroslaw Niezgoda (FW)
NYCFC will be glad to have MLS Golden Boot winner Taty Castellanos back from suspension. Manager Ronny Deila fields his regular lineup with the only surprise being Gudmundur Thorarinsson playing left back in lieu of Malte Amundsen , who had started every match in the postseason. Deila has a host of attacking options off the bench should his team need a spark at some point in the match.
NYCFC starting lineup (4-2-3-1, left to right): 1-Sean Johnson-GK (captain) — 20-Gudmundur Thorarinsson, 6-Alexander Callens, 4-Maxime Chanot, 24-Tayvon Gray — 7-Alfredo Morales, 16-James Sands — 42-Santiago Rodriguez, 10-Maxi Moralez, 19-Jesus Medina — 11-Valentin “Taty” Castellanos
NYCFC subs (9): 13-Luis Barraza (GK), 2-Malte Amundsen (LB), 15-Tony Rocha (CDM), 26-Nicolas Acevedo (CDM), 23-Gedion Zelalem (CM), 8-Thiago Andrade (LW), 43-Talles Magno (LW), 17-Ismael Tajouri-Shradi (RW/LW/CF), 9-Heber (CF)
How to watch MLS Cup final: Portland vs. NYCFC
- Date: Saturday, Dec. 11
- Time: 3 p.m. ET
- TV channel: ABC
- Spanish-language TV: UniMas, TUDN
- Streaming: fuboTV
The 2021 MLS Cup final between the Portland Timbers and New York City FC is a single-game championship match. The Timbers will host the match at Providence Park in Portland, Ore.
A victory for the Timbers would give them their second MLS Cup trophy after their 2015 triumph over the Columbus Crew on the road. Portland lost in its only other appearance in the final, in 2018 in Atlanta. New York City FC is in its first final of any variety. A trophy would break new ground for a club that has only been in existence since 2015. The Timbers joined MLS in 2011.
MLS Cup betting odds & prediction
(Odds courtesy of DraftKings)
There isn’t a recent enough meeting to use as a point of reference for projecting how this game might unfold. The last time these two teams met in an official match was well over a year ago in a 2020 summer tournament that marked the league’s return to action after the COVID-induced pause. Portland won that quarterfinal match 3-1, but NYCFC manager Ronny Deila had only been at the helm for a little over 10 matches, and his squad today has a very different complexion.
These are two talented, deep, well-coached teams, and both are on a roll. There will be little to separate them. So it’s surprising that in an evenly matched game, the home team — and especially one with a home-field advantage like Portland’s (11W-4L-2D home record in 2021) — is not the odds-on favorite as of publication time. Here’s what else Portland has going for it: its manager, Giovanni Savarese.
The former MLS goal-scoring star has a strong track record as a coach in tournament play, leading the Timbers to two MLS Cup finals (2018, 2021), an MLS is Back tournament victory (2020) and four playoff berths in his four seasons. He has a feel for the game and his players, and a knack for coming up with the right tactical game plan to exploit the opponent. And he has the team’s buy-in. The silverware is there for the taking in the biggest game of his managerial career.
Pick: Portland Timbers pick’em Asian Handicap -105 (draw is a push)
MLS Cup prediction: Portland Timbers 2, NYCFC 0
- Moneyline (regulation): Portland +180 / Draw +215 / NYCFC +170
- Spread: Portland +0.5 (-190) / NYCFC -0.5 (+165)
- O/U 2.5 total goals: Over +110 / Under -140
- Both teams to score: Yes -130 / No +100