For the first time in club history, the Portland Timbers will host MLS Cup after topping Real Salt Lake 2-0 in the Western Conference Final at Providence Park on Saturday, paced by an early opener from Felipe Mora and a second-half dagger from Santiago Moreno.
HIGHLIGHTS: Portland Timbers vs. Real Salt Lake | December 04, 2021
With the result, Portland advanced to their third-ever MLS Cup on Dec. 11 and secured hosting rights by virtue of their higher regular-season points total than Eastern Conference counterparts New York City FC and Philadelphia Union. Each of Portland's previous two MLS Cup appearances came on the road.
Portland roared to a dream start, striking for the opener after just five minutes. Yimmi Chara spearheaded the chance with a cross from the right-hand side that RSL right back Aaron Herrera tried to clear but instead hit right to Mora, who rolled the deflected finish past David Ochoa.
RSL missed a golden opportunity to equalize in the 33rd minute. Damir Kreilach had a clean header off a pinpoint cross from Herrera, but it was denied by a crucial reaction save from Portland goalkeeper Steve Clark.
Kreilach's missed chance proved costly, as the Timbers landed the knockout blow just past the hour mark. Moreno did the honors in the 61st minute, unleashing a wicked shot from distance that ricocheted off the post, back off Ochoa and into the net.
Portland pushed for a third, nearly finding it in the 68th minute off a pair of golden looks from substitute Jaroslaw Niezgoda, who saw his initial shot cleared off the line and subsequent rebound opportunity go just over the crossbar.
It would be a moot point, as Real Salt Lake finished the match with 10 men after Herrera was sent off for picking up his second yellow card in the 79th minute, effectively negating the visitors' bid at a late rally.
- THE BIG PICTURE: For everything they've accomplished since joining MLS in 2011, the Timbers have never hosted MLS Cup, acting as the road team in their victory over Columbus in 2015 and their defeat to Atlanta in 2018. They now have that milestone checked off the list, as they'll look to win a title in front of their home fans in one of MLS' most electric venues. For RSL, it's an unceremonious end to a remarkable underdog run. Few had interim coach Pablo Mastroeni's group advancing this far when they entered the Audi 2021 MLS Cup Playoffs as the No. 7 seed, and RSL can take pride in that, even if they head into the offseason disappointed they couldn't finish the job.
- MOMENT OF MATCH: RSL were still in it until this 61st-minute scorcher from Moreno, which gave Portland some necessary breathing room and sent the Providence Park crowd into a frenzy.
GOAL: Santiago Moreno, Portland Timbers - 61st minute
- MAN OF THE MATCH: With Sebastian Blanco available but on the bench (hamstring injury), the Timbers didn't need to use their best attacker at all thanks to a dynamic shift from Moreno. The Colombian U22 Initiative signing logged a stellar all-around performance aside from his goal.
Western Conference Trophy Celebration
- POR: Sunday, Dec 11. vs. PHI or NYCFC | 3 pm ET (ABC, UniMas) | MLS Cup Final
- RSL: End of 2021 season