The Portland Timbers are hosting their first MLS Cup final, and New York City FC is playing in its first. Only one team will leave Providence Park with the championship trophy on Saturday.
The two conference champions, who both started the postseason as No. 4 seeds, will go head-to-head in Portland because the Timbers hold the best regular-season record. If the match is tied after 90 minutes of regulation, 30 minutes of extra time will be played, followed by a penalty-kick shootout if necessary.
While Portland continues to show that it’s a strong tournament team under manager Giovanni Savarese, who has now reached his second MLS Cup final in four seasons, NYCFC finally exorcised the playoff demons that have haunted the club every year since 2016, showcasing an attractive, aggressive style on its road to the final.
The weather could be a factor in this match. On top of the rain and cold, which is typical for this time of year in Portland, there’s also a wind advisory (20-30 mph winds with gusts reaching 45 mph). We’ll see if it prompts either coach to pull off a Bill Belichick-like tactical change.
Sporting News will be following the match live and providing score updates, commentary and highlights as they happen.
Portland Timbers vs. NYCFC — MLS Cup live score
(All times Eastern)
17th min.: Sebastian Blanco shot in the box is deflected and then Dairon Asprilla nearly gets on the ball in the box. First serious chance for Portland and we’re nearly 20 minutes in.
14th min.: NYCFC wants a yellow shown to George Fochive who commits his second hard foul in midfield. The ref doesn’t give it, but the next one will be a caution. This is just Fochive’s 12th start of the year.
12th min.: Another shout for a penalty for NYCFC. This time it’s Tayvon Gray and then Maxi Moralez who go down. The referee says play on in both cases. NYCFC has the clearest ideas when the team has the ball.
11th min.: NYCFC shouting for a hand ball after a cross was headed by Alexander Callens in the Portland box. But Armando Villarreal wasn’t having any of it.
8th min.: The game being played between the boxes here. Sloppy and frantic start to the game on both sides.
1st min.: We’re off. Thirty seconds in and NYCFC’s Maxi Moralez already tests Portland’s Steve Clark, who holds on. You can tell NYCFC isn’t wasting any time testing the ‘keeper given the conditions.
3:29 p.m.: Teams are on the field. We’re just minutes away.
3:15 p.m.: The trophy inflatable popped. Meanwhile, the game will start at 3:33 p.m. ET after the UCONN-UCLA basketball game.
2:55 p.m.: Providence Park is already rocking. And we’re only into warmups:
2:40 p.m.: We’ll see if the MLS Cup inflatable can survive the wind:
12:58 p.m.: Sound up on this video to get a feel for the weather in Portland for the final:
12:34 p.m.: NYCFC fans making noise in the Portland streets:
12:30 p.m.: This is the level of anticipation from Portland ahead of the first final played in PDX:
12:15 p.m.: Here are the hype videos for this final, one for each team. Sound up:
Noon: One of MLS’s best referees in recent years will be overseeing the final:
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Portland Timbers vs. NYCFC lineups
Sebastian Blanco starts for the Timbers. He said he was fully recovered from the hamstring injury that kept him out of the Western Conference final and the Timbers are rolling him out there with Santiago Moreno making way. They’ll also have winger Dairon Asprilla back from suspension, but regular holding midfielder Cristhian Paredes has a calf issue and is replaced by George Fochive, who has just 11 starts all season.
Portland Timbers starting lineup (4-2-3-1, left to right): 12-Steve Clark-GK (captain) — 5-Claudio Bravo, 13-Dario Zuparic, 33-Larrys Mabiala, 22-Josecarlos van Rankin — 20-George Fochive, 21-Diego Chara (captain) — 10-Sebastian Blanco, 23-Yimmi Chara, 27-Dairon Asprilla — 9-Felipe Mora
Portland Timbers subs (9): 31-Aljaz Ivacic (GK), 28-Pablo Bonilla (RB), 85-Zac McGraw (CB), 25-Bill Tuiloma (CB), 22-Cristhian Paredes (CDM), 8-Diego Valeri (CAM), 30-Santiago Moreno (LW / RW), 44-Marvin Loria (LW / RW), 11-Jaroslaw Niezgoda (FW)
NYCFC will be glad to have MLS Golden Boot winner Taty Castellanos back from suspension. Manager Ronny Deila fields his regular lineup with the only surprise being Gudmundur Thorarinsson playing left back in lieu of Malte Amundsen, who had started every match in the postseason. Deila has a host of attacking options off the bench should his team need a spark at some point in the match.
NYCFC starting lineup (4-2-3-1, left to right): 1-Sean Johnson-GK (captain) — 20-Gudmundur Thorarinsson, 6-Alexander Callens, 4-Maxime Chanot, 24-Tayvon Gray — 7-Alfredo Morales, 16-James Sands — 42-Santiago Rodriguez, 10-Maxi Moralez, 19-Jesus Medina — 11-Valentin “Taty” Castellanos
NYCFC subs (9): 13-Luis Barraza (GK), 2-Malte Amundsen (LB), 15-Tony Rocha (CDM), 26-Nicolas Acevedo (CDM), 23-Gedion Zelalem (CM), 8-Thiago Andrade (LW), 43-Talles Magno (LW), 17-Ismael Tajouri-Shradi (RW/LW/CF), 9-Heber (CF)
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How to watch MLS Cup final: Portland vs. NYCFC
- Date: Saturday, Dec. 11
- Time: 3 p.m. ET
- TV channel: ABC
- Spanish-language TV: UniMas, TUDN
- Streaming: fuboTV
The 2021 MLS Cup final between the Portland Timbers and New York City FC is a single-game championship match. The Timbers will host the match at Providence Park in Portland, Ore.
A victory for the Timbers would give them their second MLS Cup trophy after their 2015 triumph over the Columbus Crew on the road. Portland lost in its only other appearance in the final, in 2018 in Atlanta. New York City FC is in its first final of any variety. A trophy would break new ground for a club that has only been in existence since 2015. The Timbers joined MLS in 2011.
MLS Cup betting odds & prediction
(Odds courtesy of DraftKings)
There isn’t a recent enough meeting to use as a point of reference for projecting how this game might unfold. The last time these two teams met in an official match was well over a year ago in a 2020 summer tournament that marked the league’s return to action after the COVID-induced pause. Portland won that quarterfinal match 3-1, but NYCFC manager Ronny Deila had only been at the helm for a little over 10 matches, and his squad today has a very different complexion.
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These are two talented, deep, well-coached teams, and both are on a roll. There will be little to separate them. So it’s surprising that in an evenly matched game, the home team — and especially one with a home-field advantage like Portland’s (11W-4L-2D home record in 2021) — is not the odds-on favorite as of publication time. Here’s what else Portland has going for it: its manager, Giovanni Savarese.
The former MLS goal-scoring star has a strong track record as a coach in tournament play, leading the Timbers to two MLS Cup finals (2018, 2021), an MLS is Back tournament victory (2020) and four playoff berths in his four seasons. He has a feel for the game and his players, and a knack for coming up with the right tactical game plan to exploit the opponent. And he has the team’s buy-in. The silverware is there for the taking in the biggest game of his managerial career.
Pick: Portland Timbers pick’em Asian Handicap -105 (draw is a push)
MLS Cup prediction: Portland Timbers 2, NYCFC 0
- Moneyline (regulation): Portland +180 / Draw +215 / NYCFC +170
- Spread: Portland +0.5 (-190) / NYCFC -0.5 (+165)
- O/U 2.5 total goals: Over +110 / Under -140
- Both teams to score: Yes -130 / No +100