Two matches. Two cups. One season.
It’s been a long seven years for New York City FC, but emotions ran high in the big apple on Saturday as NYCFC shocked the league in their historic run as they claimed their first-ever MLS Cup trophy at Providence Park in Portland, Oregon.
It was a matchup for the books regardless of the scoreline. The Portland Timbers hosted their first championship game that saw hundreds of fans lineup for wristbands to the Timbers Army supporters section early Monday morning.
Both teams fielded their full starting eleven, including the return of Portland’s Sebastian Blanco – when the star midfielder exited the western conference semifinal in tears after suffering a devastating injury during the second half.
New York continuously pressed Portland’s backline at the start of the whistle, making it difficult for the hosts to string together buildups with any rhythm.
Valentin Castellanos finally broke the deadlock in the 41st minute when he powered a header past Steve Clark with the assist from Maxi Moralez. The Argentinian became the second Golden Boot winner to score a goal in the final in the same season he won the award, joining Josef Martinez of Atlanta United in 2018.
Even with the goal advantage, New York did not loosen the brakes until the final moments of regulation time when a costly error made the boys in blue go from ten seconds to victory now to a half hour.
Claudio Bravo sent the shot inside to Yimmi Chara – to set off the sequence of plays – who then moved it further into traffic. Felipe Mora collected the loose ball from a deflection and tucked it into the bottom corner for the equalizer at the death. Mora’s remarkable goal marked the latest tying goal ever scored in the MLS Cup (94+).
New York’s Maxime Chanot disputed the call claiming he had been fouled during the buildup but Armando Villarreal let the decision stand, sending the match into extra time for the eleventh time in 26 finals.
The boys in blue found themselves again in another of penalties for a chance at the title – marking the fifth penalty shootout in 26 championship games.
Sean Johnson clearly channeled Andre Blake to make three consecutive saves after conceding the first. After nine rounds, Alex Callens smashed the ball past Steve Clark for the winning penalty (4-2) to give the franchise their first MLS Cup trophy and the second piece of silverware.
This season was filled with dramatic highs and lows, and I can’t think of a better way to wrap up the season.