Timbers Fall in Penalty Shootout as New York CIty FC Wins MLS Cup

A last-seconds goal from Felipe Mora sends the game to extra time, but New York City FC wins on penalties.

By Margaret Seiler December 11, 2021

Timbers defender Pablo Bonilla (foreground, from right) and midfielder Yimmi Chara following Portland’s loss to New York City FC in the MLS Cup Final on December 11, 2021

Image: Alli Weseman

After a thrilling final-seconds Timbers equalizer from Felipe Mora, the latest ever goal in regulation time in an MLS Cup final, Saturday's championship game went to overtime before New York City FC prevailed in a penalty shootout.

Taty Castellanos, whose first-half goal had given NYC the lead, put the ball past Timbers keeper Steve Clark again with the first penalty. NYC keeper and captain Sean Johnson stopped Mora's shot and then Diego Valeri's. Clark blocked a shot from Alfredo Morales, but the next three New York players got by him, giving New York the trophy. 

The dramatic finish followed an afternoon of torrential rain, chainsaw sounds, and pitch projectiles that got at least one fan banned for life from Providence Park, all in front of a full-volume crowd of 25,218 that was on its feet for more than three hours. Fan-made tifo unfurled at the start of the game called for the Timbers to "reclaim the crown," following their 2015 championship.

Timbers Felipe Mora (left), the hero of regulation time with his late equalizer, and Diego Chara, who shut down numerous NYCFC chances and made it all the way to the 90th minute before getting a yellow card, battle with New York’s Santiago Rodríguez in the MLS Cup Final on December 11, 2021.

Image: Alli Weseman

A header from 2021 MLS Golden Boot winner Castellanos, off a free kick from Maxi Moralez, slipped past Clark's fingers in the 41st minute to put New York ahead. Instead of waiting for the Portland players to strike back with a goal of their own, someone in the stands fired a tallboy beer can at the celebrating New York players, striking Jesús Medina in the face. The thrower, in the stadium's south end, was pointed out by surrounding fans and removed from the stadium, and has a lifetime ban from Providence Park to look forward to. (Update: Two men were arrested for misdemeanor disorderly conduct, and one of them was also charged with attempted assault.)

The first real chances for a Timbers goal came just after the 24th minute, when the north end of the stadium was bathed in red smoke set off by the Timbers Army in support of the women who have come forward with allegations of abuse and sexual coercion against a former Portland Thorns coach, and in protest of the Timber-Thorns organization's handling of the complaints. A regular occurrence at Providence Park since October, the smoke, as well as the "You knew!" chant audible on the national broadcast, draw attention to what ABC commentator Jon Champion called "an ongoing topic of much controversy in these parts."

The pregame ceremony at Providence Park for the MLS Cup final on Saturday, December 11

TV viewers had to wait for the end of a UCLA–UConn NCAA basketball game, the last minute of which seemed to take hours and delayed the ABC broadcast by more than 15 minutes. That means those tuning in at the scheduled time of noon saw Geno instead of Gio (UConn coach Auriemma instead of Timbers coach Savarese) and missed the rather comic attempts to get a giant inflatable trophy to the center of the pitch. Repeatedly felled by wind gusts, the blow-up trophy, which would have fit in on a Beastie Boys concert stage in the 1980s, flopped flaccidly on the field and prompted Deflategate and Viagra jokes on Twitter.