The 2015 MLS Cup wasn’t the easiest on the eyes, but we won’t remember that 20 years from now.
What will we recall? Steve Clark’s shocking howler, Rodney Wallace’s early header, and, despite Columbus Crew SC’s best efforts, a 2-1 win and a first MLS championship for the Portland Timbers.
Here’s how it all graded out at MAPFRE Stadium:
Adam Kwarasey (4) – Kwarasey should’ve claimed the cross that led to Crew SC’s goal, but was otherwise solid – if not all that busy – in net for Portland.
Jorge Villafaña (8) – He wasn’t the official MVP (those honors went to Diego Valeri), but Sunday’s match was a dream for Sueño. The left back completely nullified Crew SC right winger Ethan Finlay and took advantage of the space behind Columbus defender Harrison Afful, hitting several excellent crosses – including the one Fanendo Adi headed off the post late in the second half.
Nat Borchers (6) – Borchers put in a mostly solid shift, but was bodied off the ball by Kei Kamara on the Crew SC tally. The bearded veteran did really well to slip Michael Parkhurst and get on the end of Valeri’s cross in the second half – we’re still not sure how that point-blank header didn’t go in.
Liam Ridgewell (7) – Like Borchers, Ridgewell put in a solid shift on Sunday. The Timbers captain worked well with his center back partner to slow down Kamara, who, aside from the goal, wasn’t too impactful on Sunday.
Alvas Powell (3) – Powell had his share of difficulties on Sunday (he was beat more than a few times, didn’t get forward as well as usual and had problems in possession), but none of his issues ended up costing the Timbers too dearly.
Diego Chara (6) – We didn’t hear Chara’s name too often on Sunday, but that’s sort of the idea with lone defensive midfielders. As always, the Colombian covered a ton of ground, and did a number in disrupting the Columbus attack. He wasn’t the smoothest in position and couldn’t quite close down Kamara on the goal, but still, a job well done by Chara.
Darlington Nagbe (6) – Nagbe wasn’t spectacular, but he was strong. The US international made a terrific heads-up play to take an out-of-bounds ball off of Tony Tchani and start the play that led to the Timbers’ second goal, and did his part to disrupt the Crew SC center mid trio.
Diego Valeri (7) – Full credit to Valeri for capitalizing on Steve Clark’s mistake to give the Timbers the early lead. He was pretty invisible for the rest of the first half, but put more of a stamp on the match in the second. The MLS Cup MVP was at his best in the later stages, when he set up a few great looks, including Borchers’ point blank header that somehow stayed out.
Rodney Wallace (7) – Wallace was perhaps the Timbers’ most dangerous attacker in the first half, sneaking around Afful to head home their second goal in the seventh minute and working in tandem with Villafaña to give Crew SC’s right side fits. He wasn’t as influential in the second, but deserves recognition for some solid defensive work.
Lucas Melano (5) – The Argentine hit a wonderful cross from the right flank to assist on Wallace’s headed goal, but struggled to get involved otherwise. He did get himself more involved shortly before coming off for Dairon Asprilla in the 59th, creating – then wasting – a golden opportunity in the 53rd before setting up a solid chance in the 59th.
Fanendo Adi (6) – Adi had a quiet first half, but came alive as they game wore on and his Timbers teammates found his feet with increasing frequency. His hold-up play wasn’t quite up to its usual standard, but he was active in front of goal, forcing Clark into a few fine saves and nearly scoring with an excellent flicked header that bounced off the inside of the post.
Dairon Asprilla (6) – Put in a workmanlike performance after entering in the 59th minute for Melano. The Colombian didn’t do a ton in the attack, but made a few important plays in the dying minutes to keep possession and kill some clock.
Maximiliano Urruti (N/A) – Played the final three minutes of stoppage time after coming on for a hampered Adi in the 91st.
Jack Jewsbury (N/A) – Came on for Wallace in the final few seconds, then won the first MLS Cup of his 13-year career. Not a bad Sunday for the original captain of the Timbers’ MLS era.
Columbus Crew SC:
Steve Clark (2) – Clark pulled off a few very fine saves, and one absolutely unreal one on his denial of Borchers in the 82nd minute. But, for all the good work he did keeping Crew SC in the game, we’ll only remember his performance for that play, a botched clearance that gifted the Timbers a goal 27 seconds in. It’s cruel to judge a player on just one moment, but Clark’s mistake may have cost Columbus a trophy.
Waylon Francis (5) – It was a fine effort from the Costa Rican international. He didn’t do much wrong at left back, but didn’t really get forward with his customary frequency, either.
Gaston Sauro (6) – Like their Portland counterparts, the Columbus center backs mostly managed Sunday’s match. Neither Sauro nor Parkhurst were at fault Crew SC on either Portland goal, though Crew SC did, however, struggle to deal with set pieces. That’s not entirely on Sauro, but it’s not a glowing reflection on the Argentine, either.
Michael Parkhurst (5) – The Crew SC captain, like his center back partner, was mostly solid on Sunday. He made two spectacular, potentially hand-aided, back-to-back goal line clearances to keep Crew SC in it, though he did have to be bailed out by Clark after Borchers beat him to that Valeri cross in the 82nd.
Harrison Afful (3) – Afful established himself as perhaps the finest right back in MLS after arriving in Columbus this summer, but Sunday was not his finest hour. The Ghanaian international was all over the place; his service was errant, his right side was under siege and he drew a ridiculous yellow card. The only saving grace? It was Afful who curled in the cross that led to Crew SC’s goal.
Wil Trapp (3) – Like Afful, Trapp was far from his best on Sunday. The aspiring USMNT midfielder was just off; he had a few sloppy turnovers in the first half, failed to apply any appreciable pressure on Nagbe on the play that led to Portland’s second and just couldn’t quite make an impression on the match.
Tony Tchani (3) – Tony, Tony, Tony – you’ve got to play to the whistle! Yes, the linesman should’ve raised his flag, but Tchani’s has to keep playing until that ball’s called out. Instead, he let Nagbe take over, with the Timbers terror driving through the midfield before playing a ball out wide to set up Portland’s second. Tchani didn’t recover from that mistake, and was sloppy in possession before exiting in the 72nd for Jack McInerney.
Federico Higuain (6) – Like almost everyone else on the field, Higuain struggled a bit in the first half. He picked it up in the second, but, whether it was on a near post cross that no Crew SC forward made a run for or that neat flick that just missed McInerney, just couldn’t quite connect with his teammates.
Justin Meram (6) – One of the few Crew SC players to come out of the gates with some bounce, Meram was solid on Sunday. The Iraqi international was aggressive on the dribble, and caused plenty of problems for the Timbers defense, who were forced to foul him on more than a few occasions. Gregg Berhalter’s decision to remove him in the 79th minute for Mohammed Saied was a bit curious, though Meram has been dealing with an injury for most of Columbus’ playoff run.
Ethan Finlay (2) – Finlay had a sparkling season, but was totally invisible before getting pulled for Cedrick Mabwati in the 63rd. Not his finest hour.
Kei Kamara (5) – After picking up a knock in training on Saturday, Kamara got the start and got the goal, scrapping with several Timbers defenders before burying a low finish to make it 2-1 in the 18th. Crew SC’s leading scorer didn’t really do much after that, however, struggling to find the game as Columbus unsuccessfully searched for an equalizer.
Cedrick Mabwati (6) – Cedrick was lively after coming on for Finlay in the 63rd, running at defenders and causing a few problems, particularly when he was up against Powell.
Jack McInerney (4) – JackMac didn’t see a ton of the ball after coming on for Tony Tchani in the 72nd minute, and, when he did, it wasn’t too great. He took a rather ambitious shot from distance shortly after coming on, failed to make a near post run for a Higuain cross and couldn’t quite reach a chip from the Argentine playmaker.
Mohammed Saied (N/A) – There wasn’t much doing for Saied after he entered for Meram in the 78th minute.