Portland, OR. New York City FC are the winners of the 2021 MLS Cup: The team that underperformed during the season–and finally played to its abilities in the postseason– defeated the Portland Timbers in a rain-drenched match at Providence Park that was decided with penalty kicks.
For the first time in club history, NYCFC are the champions of MLS.
NYCFC started the scoring with a trademark set-piece header from Golden Boot winner Taty Castellanos in the 40th minute. New York was the better squad for most of the game, displaying a quality of the play that not only shut down Portland, it silenced the crowd.
Still, it was the only goal that NYCFC scored despite creating dangerous chances throughout the 90 minutes of regulation time. The lack clinical of finishing came back to haunt City when Portland swarmed the box three minutes into stoppage time and Timbers striker Felipe Mora knocked in a goal, drawing the game 1-1. New York, seconds away from winning the game, was forced to play 30 minutes of overtime.
Portland was the stronger side for the two 15-minute halves. But New York did just enough to prevent the Timbers from scoring, forcing a penalty shootout.
NYCFC goalkeeper Sean Johnson saved penalties taken by Mora and Timber’s playmaker Diego Valeri, two of Portland’s most potent goal-scorers. Castellanos, Talles Magno, and Maxi Moralez converted their attempts. That left the fourth kick to center-back Alexander Callens, who drilled his down the middle and into the back of the net to win the MLS Cup for NYCFC.
The victory means that NYCFC will have the right to stitch a star above the club badge next year. For now, there are officially-licensed “CHAMPS!” t-shirts and hoodies available.
Most importantly, the win compelled NYCFC manager Ronny Deila to make good on the promise he made last year, and strip in front of crowd. It was a spectacle that is now burned into the memories of the supporters who made the trip from New York to watch their team play on a soaking-wet December day in Portland.
UPDATE: You’ll find close-up and reverse-angle videos of Deila taking off his clothes here.