2021 MLS Cup: Portland Timbers 1-1 NYCFC (2-4 pen): Boys In Blue win franchise's first title in penalty shootout
NYCFC celebrate their MLS Cup championship/Photo: Getty Images

NYCFC have won the 2021 MLS Cup title in a dramatic penalty shootout over the Portland Timbers at Providence Park.

Golden Boot winner Valentin Castellanos gave the Boys In Blue a 41st-minute lead after his header dribbled past the hands of Timbers goalkeeper Steve Clark.

Portland equalized with the last kick of normal time as Felipe Mora beat Sean Johnson, but replays showed a foul on NYCFC defender Maxime Chanot in the buildup to the goal.

After neither team scored in 30 minutes of extra time, the match went to the shootout where Castellanos scored the opener and Johnson stopped the first two Timbers penalties.

The winning penalty was scored by Alexander Callens, who also clinched the shootout victory over New England, to give the Boys In Blue their first championship in franchise history.

Story of the match

NYCFC manager Ronny Deila made one change to the side that defeated Philadelphia in the Eastern Conference Final with Gudmundur Thorarinsson replacing Malte Amundsen.

The match started at a quick pace with Maxi Moralez firing off a shot that didn't trouble Clark. In the ninth minute, Alfredo Morales squared a ball for Castellanos, whose effort went behind for a corner.

Portland got their first chance in the 26th minute as a low cross by Sebastian Blanco was headed for a teammate in the box, but James Sands made a vital interception.

Four minutes from halftime, the Boys In Blue made the breakthrough as Maxi Moralez' delivery from a set-piece found the head of Castellanos, whose shot eluded Clark.

Castellanos celebrates after giving NYCFC the lead in the 2021 MLS Cup final/Photo: MLS Soccer
Castellanos celebrates after giving NYCFC the lead in the 2021 MLS Cup final/Photo: MLS Soccer

In the 50th minute, Moralez was again the danger man as from another dead ball, his shot clipped the top of the crossbar.

Seven minutes later, the Eastern Conference champions attacked down the right with Jesus Medina squaring for Santiago Rodriguez on the edge of the box. His shot from distance didn't trouble Clark.

NYCFC's ability to stretch the pitch and play through when in possession saw them create several half-chances, but they couldn't produce the finishing touch to kill off the game.

Deila turned to his bench in the 80th minute as Ismael Tajouri-Shradi replaced Rodriguez and Amundsen came on for Thorarinsson in the 92nd minute.

The title was seemingly wrapped up when a loose ball in the NYCFC penalty box found its way to the back post where Mora was on hand to beat Johnson.

Portland celebrate after equalizing the 2021 MLS Cup Final in stoppage time/Photo: Troy Wayrynen/USA Today Sports
Portland celebrate after equalizing the 2021 MLS Cup Final in stoppage time/Photo: Troy Wayrynen/USA Today Sports

Talles Magno, who scored the winner in the Eastern Conference Finals against Philadelphia, replaced Medina in the 95th minute, bringing a physical presence as well as the ability to get others involved in the final third.

Extra time offered little in the way of chances with Tayvon Gray having the best opportunity for either side, meaning the championship would be decided in a penalty shootout.

The Boys In Blue won the toss and elected to shoot first, a decision that proved to be a stroke of brilliance as Castellanos beat Clark and Johnson saved the first two Timbers penalties.

Trailing 3-1, Sebastian Paredes scored to keep Portland in the final, but Callens beat Clark down the middle to give NYCFC a first title in franchise history.

Alexander Callens is congratulated by teammates after scoring the title-clinching goal in the penalty shootout/Photo: Getty Images
Alexander Callens is congratulated by teammates after scoring the title-clinching goal in the penalty shootout/Photo: Getty Images

Man of the match: Sean Johnson

Club captain and now club legend for his performance in the penalty shootout. A veteran of 12 years, 321 MLS games and with NYCFC since their inception in 2015, the Boys In Blue goalkeeper was deservedly named MVP for his efforts and can now call himself a champion.

VAVEL Logo