The 2021 MLS Cup clash between the Portland Timbers and New York City FC was primed to be a must-see matchup before the clock started ticking. Per Vivid Seats, it was the most in-demand MLS game ever as the average ticket price was $752.
In the end, after some high drama, NYCFC defeated the West Coast host on penalties to win it all. Here's how the game played out.
Players and fans alike were prepared for a high-energy environment and prior to kickoff, NYCFC coach Ronny Deila even acknowledged the tone.
"I've heard it is a very good atmosphere, but there is nothing more fun than playing in a stadium with a good atmosphere," Deila said. "We have to deal with the noise to be playing away ... this is maybe a step up when you're talking about noise, but I think we have players who have through these things many times."
After a windy opening ceremony in which a giant inflatable version of MLS Cup was essentially torn in half by the strong gusts ripping across Providence Park, the game got going.
Timbers fans again protested in the 24th minute of the MLS Cup, which they've been doing since October amid revelations that the Timbers front office quietly handled allegations of sexual harassment from the former coach of the club's women's team, the Portland Thorns. Two players reported coach Paul Riley's behavior in 2015, but he was not ousted from the NWSL until October.
Believe women. Protect women. 24th minute pic.twitter.com/6phfIpb3XL— Anne M. Peterson (@AnnieMPeterson) December 11, 2021
After a tense first half with few chances created, NYCFC struck first.
Castellanos heads home off Moralez free kick. Some moron threw something from the stands and hit Medina it looked like. He's back up. 1-0 to #NYCFC.— Jeff Carlisle (@JeffreyCarlisle) December 11, 2021
However, one fan in particular became too rowdy after Taty Castellanos' 41st-minute goal when NYCFC midfielder Jesús Medina was struck by an object thrown from the crowd. According to the Timbers' Twitter page, the fan was quickly ejected from Providence Park, but that did not deter other fans from sharing their thoughts about the incident.
Portland has no respect for beer...all is lost. #MLSCup.— Alexi Lalas (@AlexiLalas) December 11, 2021
Jesús Medina was hit by an object thrown from the crowd after NYCFC scored. pic.twitter.com/n0ptX7nR1u— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) December 11, 2021
Identify the fan, ban them for life. Disgraceful. #MLSCup— herculez gomez (@herculezg) December 11, 2021
It was a shame that the ugly scenes took some shine away from Castellanos' goal; having finished the season as the Golden Boot winner as the league's top scorer, this was his moment on the biggest MLS stage.
The NYCFC viewing party, held at New York City's iconic Hammerstein Ballroom, definitely enjoyed the goal.
And then, after NYCFC appeared destined for a historic first-ever MLS Cup, this happened ...
PORTLAND EQUALIZE IN THE LAST MINUTE OF THE MLS CUP! 🤯 pic.twitter.com/NGBvvAjAe8— ESPN (@espn) December 11, 2021
Castellanos' goal was the game's only score for most of the contest, but Portland managed to get on the board with 93:54 on the clock. It was the latest regulation (non-extra time) goal in MLS Cup history, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
Felipe Mora's score came just seconds before the final whistle to keep the Timbers' hopes alive -- it also sparked an outpouring of posts on social media.
TIMBERS???— Bill Barnwell (@billbarnwell) December 11, 2021
The thing about MLS is that every MLS game is good— Rodger Sherman (@rodger) December 11, 2021
The Timbers' social media platform needed a moment after that!
OH MY GOD OH MY GOD OH MY GOD OH MY GOD OH MY GOD OH MY GOD OH MY GOD OH MY GOD OH MY GOD OH MY GOD OH MY GOD OH MY GOD OH MY GOD OH MY GOD OH MY GOD OH MY GOD OH MY GOD— Portland Timbers (@TimbersFC) December 11, 2021
The dramatic late goal certainly caught the attention, and things rolled into extra time with the score tied at 1-1.
SOCCER IS TENSE— ian karmel (@IanKarmel) December 11, 2021
Despite Portland's late regulation goal, it was unable to defeat the visitors from the East Coast. NYCFC goalkeeper Sean Johnson emphatically denied the Timbers' first two penalty kicks and it was too much for the home team to overcome as NYCFC handily won the shootout 4-2.
The NYCFC faithful traveled over 3,000 miles to witness their team take on Portland and were able to view a euphoric victory as the new MLS Cup champions were crowned and the celebration spilled over to the social world.
𝗖𝗛𝗔𝗠𝗣𝗜𝗢𝗡𝗦 🏆 pic.twitter.com/5x4Yfxu2yn— New York City FC (@NYCFC) December 11, 2021
Meanwhile, Ronny Deila stuck true to his word. When the NYCFC manager was hired, he promised the club's supporters that if he leads NYCFC to an MLS Cup trophy, he will strip down and celebrate the way he had at previous stints in his managerial career, including at Stromsgodset.
In the lead-up to Saturday's big match in Portland, he admitted the prospect was less enticing now that he's 46 years old, but he knows a promise is a promise.