The MLS Cup Playoffs have reached their final two teams. The MLS Cup Final is tomorrow, and one team will lift the Cup and put an end to the 2021 season. Before the match, let’s look back at the conference finals that age us the final two teams. Here’s an MLS Cup Playoffs conference finals recap.
Conference Finals Recap
Portland Timbers and Real Salt Lake fought to win the west, while Philadelphia Union and New York City FC battled to claim the east. The matches were intriguing matchups. The 4-seed out west, Portland, took on the 7-seed, RSL, in a game that had one team playing good soccer and the other trying to win by any means necessary. The 2-seed, Union, faced off against the 4-seed NYCFC; this match was a hard-fought effort from both teams that saw a late winner. Here’s a look back at how Portland and NYCFC claimed their conference titles, to meet in the 2021 MLS Cup.
Portland dominate RSL
Portland played in front of a full-voiced Providence Park as they took on the lowest seed to make the playoffs Real Salt Lake. Portland beat Minnesota United ate home in Round One, and then went ot 1-seed Colorado Rapids and beat them late on. Real Salt Lake went to Seattle Sounders and beat them on pens, then went to Sporting Kansas City and beat them on a late goal. The two met in the western conference final, and the game was going to hinge on how both could impact the match.
Portland likes to dominate games, while RSL love to sit back and hit on the counter. The team that executed best was going to win and make it to MLS Cup. It was clear from early on in the match that Portland was able to execute. Filipe Mora scored in the first five minutes for Portland after an awkward RSL deflection. Mora tapped his effort home and Portland was buzzing. RSL couldn’t get anything going in the game and tried to push their wingback high to get around Portland. This didn’t work, and they were punished for it. Santiago Moreno took advantage of the space vacated by RSL. He dribbled forward and ripped a shot from long range in the 60th minute for Portland’s second goal. RSL was cooked, and things were made worse when Aaron Herrera got a second yellow and was sent off with 10 minutes left. They didn’t recover at all from that.
RSL season ended after a magical run that left them one match short of playing in the MLS Cup Final. Portland, with their win, knew that they wouldn’t just make MLS Cup, but host it at Providence Park against either Philly or NYCFC.
NYCFC win late vs Union
Philly and NYCFC both made their first-ever eastern conference final in 2021. Subaru Park was the backdrop for a game full of history. Philly beat New York Red Bulls on a last-second extra time goal, and Nashville SC in penalty kicks to make the conference final. NYCFC beat Atlanta United at home, and won at New England Revolution on penalty kicks to make their first-ever conference final. The match was marked a bit by the Union getting hit with Covid; 11 players were out for Philly, yet they still gave a valiant effort that was just short of getting them to MLS Cup 2021.
The match began with a heavily rotated Philly dominating NYCFC. They fed off the crowd of 19,000+ fans and won the first 45 minutes. The only problem for the Union was their problem all year, they couldn’t score. That is until the second half. Philly picked up where they left off in the second half and got the first goal; however, it was NYCFC’s Alexander Callens who accidentally deflected a Daniel Gazdag cross into his own net. The Union was up 1-0 in the 62nd minute. The goal seemed to wake up NYCFC, and after a good attacking sequence, Philly failed to clear their lines and Maxi Moralez scored a good goal to tie the game 90 seconds after they conceded. Once that happened NYCFC went to their strong bench to try to win the game. In the dying minutes of the 90, Philly failed to clear their lines once again, NYCFC was in on net, and Talles Mango tapped home the eventual winning goal in the 87th minute.
Philly’s season ended just short of MLS Cup. It was a shame for their 11 players that couldn’t;t play in the match. NYCFC is off to their first-ever MLS Cup Final. They’ll try to bring their high caliber possession style of play to Portland, where the Timbers try to do the same thing.
MLS Cup 2021 is set
Portland Timbers host NYCFC in the 2021 MLS Cup. It’s crazy that both four seeds from each conference made the final, but it just goes to show how once you’re in the tournament you have a chance to make some history. Both of these sides made runs to the final by beating the 1-seed in their respective conferences. That might’ve been the catalyst to get these teams to MLS Cup. On Saturday these two teams will try to out-possess the other and impose their wills on one another.
Both Portland and NYCFC love to keep the ball and use it to play beautiful soccer to beat their opponent. Whichever team can do this inside of the first 15 minutes might just be on their way to being crowned 2021 MLS Cup champions. The match coverage kicks off at 3 pm EST on ABC, and the match will begin at 3:23 pm EST! Be sure to catch the action as the final match of the 2021 MLS campaign crowns a champion!
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