The New York Red Bulls' George Adamou is the 2020 eMLS champion, winning a thrilling Hudson River Derby final against New York City FC's Didychrislito 3-2 on aggregate to claim a trophy for his team in his first eMLS season, not to mention the majority of the $20,000 prize pool.
eMLS Cup presented by Coca-Cola and PlayStation (watch the full replay) saw plenty of thrilling, tight matches, with only a first-round match being decided by more than one goal as 12 players fielded similar squads heavy with MLS Team of the Season cards.
There were plenty of surprising results along the way, perhaps none more so than eMLS League Series One and Two champion Fiddle of FC Cincinnati falling short in his quest to land an eMLS treble when he went out to Adamou in the quarterfinals. It was also a memorable run for Didychrislito, who posted comeback wins in both the quarterfinals and semifinals, including an edge-of-your seat fightback from two goals down to clinch his place in the final.
Ultimately, though, it was Adamou's day, as the newcomer to the eMLS circuit in 2020 and No. 43-ranked FIFA 20 player in the world scored some eye-catching goals while also defending superbly in a complete performance. You can check out the tournament bracket, as well as summaries and highlights from every game below.
eMLS Cup Bracket
Adamou (RBNY) 3, Alekzandur (SKC) 0
Adamou took the first quarterfinal berth on offer, getting revenge on Alekzandur for a regular season defeat earlier this year with a 3-0 win. Adamou's first goal was his best of the game, a terrific turn and finish using Diego Rossi.
He rode his luck a little more on the next two goals, one on either side of halftime. Both times shots from distance rebounded kindly off to post to a waiting Red Bulls player two easy finishes.
RemiMartinn (LAFC) 2, Crew96Skamzz (CLB) 1
RemiMartinn closed the book on Crew96Skamzz's underdog story, earning hard-fought but deserved 2-1 win over the Last Chance Qualifier in the second eMLS Cup quarterfinal. The LAFC player dominated possession and chances throughout the opening stages of the match, scoring well-worked goals in each half finished off by Alejandro Pozuelo.
Crew96Skamzz, who came into eMLS Cup placed 20th out of 25 in the overall eMLS standings, executed a great counterattack to halve RemiMartinn's lead, but despite a desperate final push, the favorite held on.
PhilB94 (TOR) 2, Doolsta (NSH) 1
PhilB94 eliminated the reigning eMLS champion at the first time of asking, taking advantage of a penalty award in the final minute of regulation to eke out a 2-1 win over Doolsta. The TFC gamer got off to a flying start, slicing open Doolsta's defense with an incisive passing move in the 9th minute.
The early goal allowed PhilB94 to sit back and frustrate his opponent, and he continued to have the better of play throughout much of the game. But Doolsta still had something up his sleeve, and sweetly guided home the equalizer with Josef Martinez from just inside the area.
The decisive sequence would come in the late minutes of the match. Just after it looked like Andre Blake kept Doolsta in the game with a fingertip save from Nani, the Nashville man gave away a penalty following the ensuing corner, which PhilB94 coolly converted to book his spot in the quarterfinal.
Godfather (LA) 2, RCTID_Thiago (POR) 1
Godfather and RCTID_Thiago threw up the third straight 2-1 result of the knockout round, but the script for this one was a little different. The game got off to a flying start, with RCTID_Thiago taking an early lead after a very well-worked corner kick in the 5th minute, only for Godfather to go right back down the field and equalize after kick off.
The game then settled into perhaps the most even affair of the four knockout round matches, with the two players notably trading chances early in the second half, which saw Thiago fire inches wide before Godfather forced a big save out of his opponent's 'keeper on a move that started from the ensuing goal kick.
Ultimately, it was the vastly experienced Godfather that found the moment of magic needed to break the deadlock, patiently moving the ball around until he found a clear chance for Alejandro Pozuelo that he easily dispatched.
Adamou (RBNY) 0, Fiddle (CIN) 0 [4-3 on PKs]
Adamou sprung the upset of the tournament so far in the first quarterfinal, ending Fiddle's quest to claim an eMLS treble after a tense game decided on penalties.
The two competitors both forced good saves out of the opposing goalkeeper as they settled into a cagey battle. Fiddle did have the ball in the back of the net off a rebound in the 58th minute, but the goal was called off due to a close offside.
The scoreless battle continued through extra time, sending the match to penalties, where Fiddle had won in three prior eMLS events this year. However, Adamou prevailed this time, coming up with a clutch save in the final round of the shootout before dispatching his own effort to avenge his defeat in the League Series One final back in January.
RemiMartinn (LAFC) 2, exraa (VAN) 1
RemiMartinn won the battle of talented eMLS newcomers, riding two efforts from Alejandro Pozuelo to a 2-1 win over Vancouver's exraa and a spot in the eMLS Cup semifinals.
It was exraa who took the initial lead midway through the first half, executing a smooth finish with Nani. His lead would last less than 10 minutes, though, as RemiMartinn came back down to equalize via a well-worked passing move that Pozuelo finished from an open look.
Much like the previous quarterfinal, the match then became a tight, back-and-forth affair, but unlike the Adamou-Fiddle matchup, this one had a winner in regulation. It took a splendid solo effort with Alejandro Pozuelo to finally break the deadlock with 15 virtual minutes remaining, earning the LAFC man a narrow win over his higher-seeded opponent.
Paulo Neto (ATL) 2, PhilB94 (TOR) 2 [4-2 on PKs]
Atlanta’s Paulo Neto staved off an upset in the most exciting game of the tournament so far, earning a 2-2 tie with an equalizer on the last kick of regulation before topping Toronto’s PhilB94 in a penalty shootout.
As is his style, Neto conceded the possession but remained lethal on the counter, and grabbed the opening goal by putting away a rebound just before halftime.
The match was far from over though, and PhilB94 equalized thanks to a ricochet of his own just before the virtual hour mark, with a blocked shot falling kindly to one of his players to slam home. Neto continued to stick to his game, conceding most of the possession to his TFC counterpart and looking for openings, only to see Neto grab the apparent winner in the 88th minute, with Diego Rossi firmly dispatching a low cross at the far post.
The drama wouldn’t end there, and with PhilB94 just needing to defend one more corner kick deep into stoppage time, Neto was able find a close-range equalizer with none other than Josef Martinez to send the game to extra time.
A scoreless 30 minutes gave way to penalties, with Neto saving Phil’s second and third penalties to stake a commanding lead in the shootout. Although Phil pulled it back to 3-2 with one round remaining, the Brazilian teen sensation coolly dispatched his fifth penalty to claim the win.
Didychrislito (NYC) 2, Godfather (LA) 1
New York City FC’s Didychrislito posted a first-half comeback to take a 2-1 win over LA Galaxy’s Godfather in the last quarterfinal of eMLS Cup.
Godfather found the opener early on from the penalty spot, but Didychrislito equalized in the 27th minute with a skillful finish thanks to Alejandro Pozuelo.
The NYCFC man then found the winner in the 42nd minute with a little bit more luck than skill this time, following up with Pozuelo off a save from Godfather’s ‘keeper. He then held his nerve through a tense second half to earn his semifinal matchup against Paulo Neto.
Adamou (RBNY) 1, RemiMartinn (LAFC) 0
Adamou relied on one great goal and a tremendous defensive effort to top RemiMartinn and book his return to an eMLS final after his earlier trip in League Series One.
The higher-seeded RemiMartinn controlled the run of play for much of the proceedings, but it would be Adamou who took the lead in the 29th minute. He played through the center in his first dangerous attacking move of the game, showing off his skills with a number of players before finding an open Alejandro Pozuelo to finish from inside the box.
RemiMartinn pressed for the equalizer from there on out, but Adamou pulled out tackle after tackle in his own area to deny the LAFC man almost any clear chance in a very busy second half. The one time RemiMartinn did get a clear shot off, he agonizingly saw it hit the post, epitomizing the frustration he endured in attack all game long.
Didychrislito (NYC) 3, Paulo Neto (ATL) 2
Didychrislito completed the comeback of the tournament, overcoming a two-goal deficit to knock out Paulo Neto and set up a Hudson River Derby matchup in the eMLS Cup final.
Neto hit the ground running, staking himself to a lead in the 5th minute and continuing to pressure his Eastern Conference opponent. He was rewarded at the half-hour mark, finishing off an incisive passing move with a superb volley from Nani. The Brazilian almost had a third from the spot in the first half, but Didychrislito kept himself in the game with a crucial penalty save.
Didychrislito carried that momentum from the penalty save into the second half, nearly scoring with his first attack before finishing with Vela from the edge of the area to halve the deficit in the 50th minute. The NYCFC man nearly undid his good work with a dangeorus giveaway, but Neto could only hit the post just before the hour mark, again keeping Didychrislito in the game. The young Brazilian would fully pay for letting his opponent off the hook in the 68th minute when Josef Martinez scored with a powerful finish to level things.
Didychrislito then completed the turnaround when Neto failed to clear a ricocheting ball in the box, allowing the NYCFC player to stick it home and set up an all-New York matchup for all the marbles.
Leg 1: Adamou (RBNY) 1, Didychrislito (NYC) 1
Adamou had the better of the first half in the first leg of the final, the only two-legged matchup in the tournament. He was rewarded in the 34th minute after Didychrislito failed to clear a dangerous cross in from the left, ultimately allowing it to fall to Adamou's Josef Martinez for a smart turn and finish.
However, the No. 3-seeded Didychrislito showed his ability in the second half, coming into the game more and eventually earning the equalizer from the penalty spot. The decision did cause Adamou some consternation, occurring right on the edge of the area, but ultimately it didn't matter as the NYCFC player leveled things heading into leg two.
Leg 2: Adamou (RBNY) 2, Didychrislito (NYC) 1
Didychrislito took the early lead this time, getting things started in the 20th minute with a one-time finish from Josef Martinez, and nearly got a second not long after, if not for a critical one-on-one save from Adamou’s goalkeeper, Andre Blake.
It was Pozuelo again who saved Adamou in the second half, leveling for the Red Bulls gamer midway through the second 45 by scoring at the near post, a goal that would be enough to eventually send things to extra time.
Didychrislito saw a terrific free kick saved early in the second half, a stop that would prove clutch for Adamou as he went back down the field and showed great patience to find an open player for the go-ahead finish in the first period of extra time.
A frantic battle to finish played out between the two New York players, with Adamou again relying on some of the exemplary defensive skills he showed in his semifinal against RemiMartinn to clinch not only derby bragging rights, but the 2020 eMLS crown.