Penalties were needed after Portland's Felipe Mora scored a dramatic late equalizer that sent the contest to extra time, canceling out a first-half opener from NYCFC forward Valentin Castellanos. But the visitors emerged victorious, as NYCFC goalkeeper Sean Johnson made two mammoth saves in the penalty-kick shootout, with the Cityzens converting four of their five attempts from the spot.
NYCFC controlled the action for much of the first half and were rewarded with the opener on 41 minutes through Castellanos. The 2021 MLS Golden Boot presented by Audi winner got on the end of a free kick into the box from Maxi Moralez, sending a header back across goal that deflected off Timbers goalkeeper Steve Clark and trickled into the net.
NYCFC continued to have the better of the chances into the second half, with Moralez central to much of the danger, including a free kick shortly after the restart that forced Clark to go full extension for a diving save. Along with a stalwart effort from their backline fueled by the center back duo of Maxime Chanot and Alexander Callens, NYCFC reached the waning moments of second-half stoppage time protecting a 1-0 lead.
But Mora sent the match into extra time on the final play of regulation with one of the most dramatic late goals in MLS Cup history. The Chilean international forward pounced on a loose ball in the box following a mad scramble and slotted the finish past Johnson, sending the crowd of 25,218 onlookers at Providence Park into bedlam.
NYCFC players adamantly argued to referee Armando Villarreal that Chanot was fouled by Portland's Larrys Mabiala directly before the shot, but the goal stood and regulation time finished level. Neither side managed to strike for a winner following the two 15-minute extra-time periods, sending the match to penalties.
NYCFC prevailed in the shootout, aided by a heroic performance from Johnson. The veteran backstop saved each of Portland's first two attempts from Mora and Diego Valeri. While Clark also managed a save on NYCFC's Alfredo Morales, Callens played the hero role, converting the final attempt that gave NYCFC the 4-2 victory and their first-ever Philip F. Anschutz Trophy.
- THE BIG PICTURE: Playing as the road underdog in one of the most hostile environments in MLS, NYCFC put forth a fantastic performance, even with Mora's late equalizer making it more dramatic than they may have liked. NYCFC have been one of the league's best regular-season teams since 2016, and they now finally have a first league title after years of playoff heartbreak. On the other side, it's a gut-wrenching way for Portland's season to end. Hosting a final isn't an opportunity that comes along very often, and watching this one slip away will feel like a missed opportunity that will sting well for years to come.
- MOMENT OF THE MATCH: This clinical penalty from Callens capped off a phenomenal shift from the center back and officially put an MLS Cup in his team's trophy case.
- MLS Cup MVP presented by Audi: Sean Johnson showed why he's one of MLS' best backstops with his saves that got NYCFC rolling in the shootout.