Voices: Greg Seltzer

MLS Cup 2021 Player Ratings: Diego Chara star showing not enough for Portland Timbers

The previously raging Portland Timbers' offense was properly cooled off by New York City FC, as the home side dropped MLS Cup for the second time in four years, this time on penalties.

The Providence Park bunch were rather listless in the opening frame, which saw the visitors bring back their set piece defense woes on a lead Valentin Castellanos strike. The Timbers improved measurably after the break and eventually kept hope alive with a last-gasp Felipe Mora goal. Sadly, their luck ran out when the shootout started.

The Portland backstop made his six saves comfortably and then another big stop when his team needed to stay in with a shootout chance. However, he will always want the Castellanos opener that skipped through his hands back, and the same might well apply to Talles Magno's penalty.

While a few efforts to jump into attack during extras was surely appreciated, Van Rankin earned his paycheck by keeping NYCFC quiet in his corner.

For most of the day, Mabiala was matching Maxime Chanot's stern defensive play. The center back also helped create the scramble that led to Portland's dramatic equalizer. That he allowed himself to be shielded off from the runner on NYCFC's goal is the one significant thing that brings his grade back toward Earth.

Though he made a few key stops, Zuparic's biggest impact might have been in organizing improved possession when Portland were trying to come back in the second half.

As with Mabiala's, a goal mistake brings this mark down a notch. Bravo was the man who neglected to track Castellanos, even if that probably wasn't initially his mark. For basically the rest of the game, Bravo was a defensive buzz-saw who also occasionally jumped forward to aid in a rush.

The well-traveled midfielder performed adequately as a midfielder enforcer, but his limited game became apparent once he had the ball. It was a serviceable stand-in outing by Fochive, who hadn't started since October.

Though he didn't ignite the counter all that much, Chara's backbone in midfield may have been the thing that kept NYCFC from running away with the game. The motor that never dies (apparently, right?) got Portland out of the Dutch time and again, even if he had to strategically break the law to do it.

It was valiant just for the Portland star to gain enough fitness for a decent-ish shift amid a game flow that did not suit him.

Due to bad touches and failing to operate in connection with teammates, Asprilla simply couldn't get much of anything going in this one.

This was very much a Mora showing. Bang a few bodies, handle a bit of hold-up work and score a goal. Another lunch pail day at work for the Portland striker. Unfortunately, a shootout miss leaves a bad aftertaste.

For pretty much the entire first half and considerable parts of the second, the younger Chara wasn't bad, but he also wasn't impactful. That changed late, and his spark eventually helped the Timbers even the match.

Giovanni Savarese
Head coach

It's a tricky thing to switch out three starters from the team that booked your MLS Cup ticket, but that's what returns and an injury will do. Savarese had enough shrewdness in the game plan to cover for the fact all three lineup changes failed to help the team too much. But the ideas never changed even when the subs came on, and a team that had been rampant thanks to the attack created precious few good looks at goal.


Moreno slotted at right back as Portland pushed for the equalizer, an unaccustomed perch for the U22 Initiative signing. In the shootout, he bagged a flawless spot-kick when Portland absolutely had to have one.

Here's another guy who, though unable to match his Conference Final magic, battled hard for 58 minutes and then made light work of his shootout attempt.

The strike sub executed a couple of helpful hold-up handoffs, but couldn't quite find the intensity of the occasion during his 36 minutes.

It's a shame that the Portland legend's time with the club will likely end with a penalty shootout miss. To Valeri's credit, he did set up a couple of extra time chances.