New York City FC wins first MLS Cup in club history
New York City FC traveled to a rain drenched Providence Park on Saturday knowing a win against Portland Timbers would secure them their first ever MLS Cup.
Head coach Ronny Deila opted to make just one change to the starting XI that overcame Philadelphia Union 2-1 in the Eastern Conference Final last time out, with Gudi Thórarinsson coming in for Malte Amundsen.
A tense affair, things started at a quick pace and that saw Maxi Moralez fire off a shot inside the first minute that didn’t trouble Portland goalkeeper Steve Clark. The Boys in Blue were pressing high and that allowed Alfredo Morales to steal in and square a ball to Taty Castellanos, but his effort rebounded behind for a corner in the 9th minute.
At the other end, Portland were posing a threat on the counter attack and in the 26th minute saw James Sands produce a fantastic interception to stop Sebastien Blanco’s low cross from reaching a teammate in the box.
NYCFC were beginning to control the game and in the 41st minute that saw them take the lead. Coming via a set-piece, it was Moralez’s delivery that escaped everyone and found the head of Castellanos. He powered a header towards goal that squirmed underneath Clark.
The second period started with a similar air of intensity and that saw Moralez again the architect of NYCFC’s best openings. Always dangerous from a dead ball, he clipped the top of Clark’s crossbar in the 50th minute.
Seven minutes later a well worked move down the right allowed Jesús Medina to square it to Santiago Rodríguez at the edge of the box to fire from distance, but it did little to unsettle the home goalkeeper.
NYCFC were keen to stretch the pitch and play through the lines when in possession and that saw them produce several half chances through this approach. The game was proving a tense affair as things ticked towards full time, with both teams unable to apply the finishing touch in the final third.
In the 80thth minute, Deila turned to his substitutes bench for the first time to introduce Ismael Tajouri-Shradi in place of Rodríguez. He did so again in the 92nd minute, this time introducing Malte Amundsen in place of Thórarinsson.
Then, with just seconds to go, drama in the NYCFC penalty box as a loose ball found its way to the back post where Felipe Mora was free to fire past Johnson.
That took us to extra time and thirty minutes of action. Deila did not hesitate to make changes and introduced Talles Magno for Medina in the 95th minute. The Brazilian offered a physical presence and brought others into the game in the final third.
The first period of extra time was one of few chances and the second followed a similar pattern with Tayvon Gray enjoying the best opportunity NYCFC could create. That forced the game to penalties.
A pair of fantastic saves from Sean Johnson handed Alex Callens the chance to win the game with the ninth spot kick. The Peruvian, who had scored the winning penalty against New England Revolution earlier in the playoffs, did the same again with a driven penalty past Clark to crown NYCFC 2021 MLS Cup Champions.