NYCFC Defeats Portland Timbers on Penalties in Dramatic 2021 MLS Cup Final

Mike Chiari@@mikechiariFeatured Columnist IVDecember 11, 2021

PORTLAND, OR - DECEMBER 11: Valentin Castellanos #11 of NYCFC celebrates scoring with teammate Santiago Rodriguez #42 during a game between New York City FC and Portland Timbers at Providence Park on December 11, 2021 in Portland, Oregon. (Photo by Andy Mead/ISI Photos/Getty Images)
Andy Mead/ISI Photos/Getty Images

New York City FC won its first MLS title in franchise history Saturday, beating the Portland Timbers 1-1 (4-2) on penalty kicks in the 2021 MLS Cup final at Providence Park in Portland, Oregon.

Portland trailed 1-0 for much of the game but equalized on a Felipe Mora goal in the final minute of stoppage time in the second half. NYCFC was able to overcome the heartbreak, however, as Alexander Callens scored the decisive goal in a penalty shootout:

Major League Soccer @MLS

ALEX CALLENS WITH AUTHORITY! 💥<br><br>What a moment for <a href="https://twitter.com/NYCFC?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@NYCFC</a>. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/MLSCup?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#MLSCup</a> <a href="https://t.co/KXvbDg0ASt">pic.twitter.com/KXvbDg0ASt</a>

American goalkeeper Sean Johnson also starred for NYCFC, stopping two of the four PK's he faced.

Portland was in search of its second MLS Cup title after having won in 2015, and it has now lost in the final twice in the past four years, as it fell 2-0 to Atlanta United FC in 2018.

The Timbers were on the road in each of their first two MLS Cup appearances, but they hosted this time around, and the atmosphere was awesome at Providence Park thanks to the capacity crowd and rainy weather:

Major League Soccer @MLS

"Reclaim the crown." 👑<br><br>Another beauty from <a href="https://twitter.com/timbersarmy?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@timbersarmy</a>. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/MLSCup?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#MLSCup</a> <a href="https://t.co/d6nChSxFZf">pic.twitter.com/d6nChSxFZf</a>

Major League Soccer @MLS

Portland weather. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/MLSCup?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#MLSCup</a> weather.<br><br>It’s perfect. <a href="https://t.co/TU8mH1eM8w">pic.twitter.com/TU8mH1eM8w</a>

NYCFC brought a slice of home with it to the Pacific Northwest, however, as New York Yankees manager Aaron Boone was present to watch The Boys in Blue:

New York Yankees @Yankees

Manager <a href="https://twitter.com/AaronBoone?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@AaronBoone</a> is in Portland to support <a href="https://twitter.com/NYCFC?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@NYCFC</a> in the <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/MLSCup?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#MLSCup</a> Final! 👊👏 <a href="https://t.co/sUHxazYTj1">pic.twitter.com/sUHxazYTj1</a>

The first half was largely a feeling-out process due in part to the weather, and the rain undoubtedly played a huge role in the opening goal of the game.

Golden Boot winner Valentin Castellanos got NYCFC on the board in the 41st minute when he headed a set piece from a hobbled Maximiliano Moralez past Portland goalkeeper Steve Clark:

Major League Soccer @MLS

There goes that man!<a href="https://twitter.com/tatycaste11anos?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@tatycaste11anos</a> opens the scoring in <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/MLSCup?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#MLSCup</a>! <a href="https://t.co/xD4JS0dTZq">pic.twitter.com/xD4JS0dTZq</a>

It was likely a shot Clark would have saved in better conditions, but Felipe Cardenas of The Athletic suggested Clark should have been able to handle it regardless:

Felipe Cárdenas @FelipeCar

Big goal from Taty Castellanos. A header down to the ground on a wet surface will always have a chance...<br><br>But Steve Clark, man. He has to make amends.

Amid the chaos of the goal and NYCFC's celebration, an ugly moment occurred in the form of a fan throwing an object onto the field.

NYCFC's Jesus Medina got hit in the face with a can and was down on the field for a few minutes, but he eventually got up and stayed in the game:


Jesús Medina was hit by an object thrown from the crowd after NYCFC scored. <a href="https://t.co/n0ptX7nR1u">pic.twitter.com/n0ptX7nR1u</a>

Former MLS and United States Men's National Team forward Herculez Gomez called for the fan who threw the can to be identified and banned:

herculez gomez @herculezg

Identify the fan, ban them for life. Disgraceful. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/MLSCup?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#MLSCup</a>

The Timbers later confirmed that the fan had been ejected from the stadium and banned:

Portland Timbers @TimbersFC

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.

NYCFC largely went into a defensive shell in the second half in an effort to protect the 1-0 lead, and it looked as though it was going to work until disaster struck in stoppage time.

Mora scored a desperation goal in the fourth minute of stoppage time in the second half just before the final whistle was about to blow, evening the score at 1-1 and forcing extra time:

Major League Soccer @MLS

FELIPE MORA AT THE DEATH<br><br>ALL. TIED. UP. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/MLSCup?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#MLSCup</a> <a href="https://t.co/SDKasDJNbD">pic.twitter.com/SDKasDJNbD</a>

While the Timbers and their fans erupted in delight, several NYCFC players were furious that a foul wasn't called on Portland's Larrys Mabiala for taking down NYCFC defender Maxime Chanot.

The goal was controversial, but New Orleans Saints running back Mark Ingram II seemed to enjoy the moment:

Mark Ingram II @markingramII

Wooowwwwwwwww!! Equalizer in the final seconds of the <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/MLSCup?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#MLSCup</a>!!! <a href="https://twitter.com/MLS?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@MLS</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/MLS?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@MLS</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/MLS?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@MLS</a> 😱😱🤯🤯

After both clubs played to a stalemate in extra time, the match went to penalties, marking only the fifth time in MLS Cup history that it was decided by a penalty shootout.

Castellanos scored on the first attempt for NYCFC, and each of the next three attempts were stopped, including two by Johnson.

In the end, it was Callens who put it away with a confident penalty and brought New York its first MLS title.