Sean Johnson made two penalty saves, Alex Callens scored the decisive kick from the spot, and visiting New York City FC won its first MLS Cup with a 4-2 shootout triumph following a 1-1 draw in Saturday afternoon’s final.
Johnson dove to his right to deny Felipe Mora and Diego Valeri in the tiebreaker to give seven-year-old NYCFC their second win on penalties in the postseason after also triumphing over the New England Revolution in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
Callens also scored the final penalty against New England. This time, the visitors triumphed for the third time on the road en route to their first major trophy. Just as then, he struck a powerful kick down the middle as goalkeeper Steve Clark guessed to his left.
Valentin Castellanos scored his third playoff goal before halftime for NYCFC, becoming the second MLS Golden Boot winner to score in an MLS Cup final after Atlanta’s Josef Martinez did so in 2018, also against Portland.
Mora, the Timbers’ regular season leader with 11 goals, equalized in the fourth minute of second-half stoppage with his second of the playoffs to force extra time and eventually penalties.
Those extra 30 minutes were relatively tight. Portland probably had the best chance, when Cristhian Paredes forced Johnson into a diving save to his right after a feed from Valeri.
Portland’s tying goal was the latest in regulation play of an MLS Cup final, and a bit of a mess.
Yimmi Chara reached his neck back to awkwardly head Claudio Bravo’s speculative pass into the penalty area.
Larrys Mabiala beat Maxime Chanot to the ball and chested it down, and Jaroslaw Niezgoda reached it and struck a low shot that appeared to hit Chanot’s leg.
Mora was first to the rebound and hammered a low effort from the left side of the six-yard box past Johnson, who had little chance. The home crowd erupted, while Chanot pleaded for a foul on Mabiala for the initial challenge.
Castellanos gave NYCFC the lead after 41 minutes on only the second shot on goal of the afternoon.
Tayvon Gray earned the opportunity when he won a hard-fought foul after tangling with Timbers left back Claudio Bravo.
Maxi Moralez struck an excellent free kick from the right flank. Castellanos met it with a downward header that skipped off the slick turf and diving goalkeeper Steve Clark’s fingertips before rolling across the line.
–Field Level Media