Eight-and-a-half years after its founding and 6.5 years after its first Major League Soccer match, New York City FC has its first MLS Cup.
The City Football Group side overcame a second-half stoppage time concession to the Portland Timbers to outlast the hosts through Sean Johnson magic in penalties at Providence Park in Oregon on Saturday, denying the Timbers a second MLS Cup.
Ex-Celtic boss Ronny Deila adds an MLS Cup to his table-topping seasons in Scotland and Norway, getting an early goal from Valentin Castellanos before watching Felipe Mora score late.
Mora, however, was joined by Timbers living legend Diego Valeri in missing a penalty, while only Alfredo Morales failed to beat Steve Clark.
NYCFC finished fourth in the East in the regular season, beating No. 5 Atlanta, No. 1 New England, and No. 2 Philadelphia en route to the final, where it took out the West’s fourth seed in Portland.
No sooner had Castellanos snapped the game to life with his goal — admittedly aided by Portland goalkeeper Steve Clark — the focus went right back to ugliness in a foul-heavy, rain-drenched first half in Oregon saw Castellanos nod set-piece service under a slow-to-react Clark, giving NYCFC a 1-0 breakthrough away from home.
But NYCFC teammate Jesus Medina soon ended up prone on the turf after being struck in the face by a partially-filled beer can thrown from the Providence Park crowd.
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
MLS Cup final score, stats
Portland Timbers 1-1 (2-4 pens) New York City FC
Goals scored: Castellanos 41′, Mora 90’+4
Shots: Portland Timbers 19-13 NYCFC
Shots on target: Portland 5-7 NYC
Possession: Portland Timbers 48-52 NYCFC
NYCFC’s Castellanos scores, Medina pelted by beer can in goal celebration
A chaotic half with more fouls than shot attempts (12-10), Maxi Moralez’s back post service was headed home and the NYCFC players met on the end line to celebrate their away opener.
A late-arriving Medina then took the can to the face, and required treatment from the trainers. The contact occurs about 15 seconds into this video:
— Major League Soccer (@MLS) December 11, 2021
Felipa Mora at the very death (aided by a clear foul)
Portland looked destined to come up short until stoppage time, as the Timbers found their footing and resisted the urge to simply lob desperation crosses into the mix.
That says nothing of desperation shots, and Mora was sitting pretty to stroke home from the back post after a blocked shot came onto his path.
Providence Park went nuts, but hold on — Maxime Chanot was livid after being elbowed in the face by a leaping Larrys Mabiala. Chanot was floored and Portland’s first shot hit him while on the turf, rebounding to Mora.
VAR calls that back in 99% percent of situations. This was the 1%, and it’s worth adding — perhaps a bit cynically — that the referees weren’t willing to take back a wrongly-awarded history-making goal (See: Hull, Brett in the 1999 Stanley Cup Final).
PORTLAND EQUALIZE IN THE LAST MINUTE OF THE MLS CUP! 🤯 pic.twitter.com/NGBvvAjAe8
— ESPN (@espn) December 11, 2021
Justice served by Johnson, Callens
Penalty kicks went the way of NYCFC when Sean Johnson stopped Portland’s first two attempts.
NYCFC also missed its second but did not miss again as veteran Alexander Callens salted away the club’s first major trophy with an emphatic conversion.
The winning moment for @NYCFC!
— NBC Sports Soccer (@NBCSportsSoccer) December 11, 2021