NYCFC will face the Portland Timbers in MLS Cup 2021 next Saturday (3 pm ET | ABC, UniMás) thanks to a pair of second-half substitutes connecting, as Gudi Thórarinsson won the ball from a flat-footed Olivier Mbaizo and slipped a pass to Talles Magno, who scored from the doorstep.
The second-seeded Union, missing 11 players and six likely starters due to MLS Health and Safety Protocols, broke the scoreless stalemate in the 63rd minute via an own goal by NYCFC defender Alex Callens. Daniel Gazdag played a tremendous ball toward Kacper Przybylko, but it deflected off a sliding Callens for the own goal, sending Subaru Park into rapturous applause.
But the hosts' advantage lasted less than two minutes with Maxi Moralez leveling for the fourth-seeded Cityzens in the 65th minute.
NYCFC center back Maxime Chanot attacked the space given and launched a swerving shot on frame that goalkeeper Matt Freese parried away. A deflected ball landed at Moralez’s feet and he blasted the tying goal in from the edge of the six-yard box.
NYCFC threatened to take the lead in the 76th minute, but Freese did well when diving to his right to get a hand on Callens' deflected header.
Nathan Harriel came inches from a late winner, but the Union homegrown put his header off the top netting in the 86th minute.
Instead, Talles Magno provided the heroics and made history for NYCFC.
- THE BIG PICTURE: The big question coming into the Eastern Conference Final from an NYCFC perspective was who would fill the scoring shoes of Golden Boot presented by Audi winner Taty Castellanos, who served a one-match ban for his sending off against the New England Revolution in the Eastern Conference Semifinals. That answer was club-record signing and Brazilian rising star Talles Magno, who provided NYCFC's first silverware as Eastern Conference champions. It was a valiant effort from Philadelphia, who were rocked in the days leading up to the game by the news that 11 players would be unavailable. But surely that doesn’t lessen the pain of coming so close to their first MLS Cup trip.
- MOMENT OF THE MATCH: It’s all about Talles Magno’s winner, a goal that will be remembered by NYCFC fans for quite some time.
- MAN OF THE MATCH: The match changed on a 58th-minute triple substitution made by NYCFC coach Ronny Deila, who deserves the honors for making the right call at the right moment. That point was hammered home when two of those brought on – Thórarinsson and Magno – combined for the late winner.
- PHI: End of 2021 season
- NYC: Saturday, Dec. 11 at Portland Timbers | 3 pm ET (ABC, UniMas) | MLS Cup Final