Updated: Dec 16, 2021
No David Villa, no Andrea Pirlo, no Frank Lampard, but the New York City Football Club (NYCFC) lifted their first ever MLS Cup trophy in their club's history Saturday over the Portland Timbers in a 4-2 victory that came down to penalty kicks after both sides were tied 1-1 completing 120 minutes of play at Providence Park. This year's Golden Boot winner Valentin Castellanos scored his side's only goal of the game in what seemed like the game winning goal until Timber’s striker Felipe Mora equalized the score 1-1 on a sensational kick in the last 90 minutes of play.
With both teams going scoreless in extra time, penalties would be needed to declare a league champion. NYCFC captain and goalkeeper Sean Johnson made two saves from Mora and Timbers legend Diego Valeri, who was inserted late in regulation and his future with the team in question, to the Timbers’ Steve Clark’s one, helping seal the victory for the New Yorkers after NYCFC central defender Alex Callens rocketed home the game winning kick to stun the Timbers after finishing tied up through extra time.
This victory caps off a postseason for the ages for the NYCFC, finishing fourth in the Eastern Conference and taking out Atlanta United at home before going to New England and upsetting the Revolution, who had set the MLS single-season points record with 73.
They would then go on to beat the Union, who were down several starters due to COVID-19 but still managed to challenge the NYCFC. But they would go on to face the Timbers and dominate for most of the 90 minutes with an aggressive, organized approach to the game despite the cold and wet conditions in Portland.
NYCFC could have folded, as it seemed like it in the opening minutes of the first half of extra time, but they would regather themselves as a unit. Castellanos opened the shootout with a make, then City followed Alfredo Morales' miss with conversions from Maxi Moralez, Talles Magno and ultimately Callens.
Callens and center back partner Maxime Chanot were composed for NYCFC, anchoring a collected effort that serves as the ultimate compliment to what NYCFC has become.
Overall, this has to be bittersweet for the NYCFC, debuting in 2015 as a sister club to English Premier League titan Manchester City, and with a generous cash infusion from the New York Yankees. (NYCFC still plays its home games at Yankee Stadium, and they own a 20 percent stake with the team.) City became a perennial playoff team quickly and thrived mainly behind Villa, the former Spanish star striker who was named MLS MVP in 2016.
This is a well put together team in the way it’s structured with stars such as Moralez, Castellanos, and Callens leading the way.