The 2021 MLS Cup Final was this past Saturday night. NYCFC won one for the history books. The Offseason starts now as the 2022 season is only 75 days away. Here’s a look back at how a new champion was crowned, and what to look forward to in the offseason ahead of the 2022 season.
MLS’ 2021 season was filled with drama, up until the final match which crowned a first-ever MLS Champion. The rollercoaster that was the 2021 season is finally over. The season started almost a month late, which is why there was a final two weeks before Christmas. Now the offseason for the 2022 season is underway, and there’s little time to rest for clubs’ front offices as the season is only 11 weeks away. Here’s a look back at how NYCFC was able to lift their first-ever MLS Cup.
A New MLS Champion
NYCFC has statistically been the best regular-season team in MLS over the last few seasons. They have collected more points than any team since 2017, but that didn’t really translate to playoff success or trophies, until this season. New York City lost their best, and possibly the league-best, outside back in Anton Tinnerholm, and boss of their central midfield Keaton Parks in the regular season. Couple that with almost a month’s stretch of not scoring a goal in September, and you’d think this team had no right to make the playoffs yet they ended up winning MLS Cup in 2021. Going on a five-game unbeaten streak into the playoffs helped push this team to think they could overcome anything and they did just that.
The blue side of New York claimed the east 4-seed and dominated Atlanta United at home in Round One of the playoffs winning 2-0. The following path was going to be difficult for them as they’d end up playing their remaining three playoff games on the road. NYCFC went to a record-setting, Supporters Shield winning team in New England, and played better than them in a match where New York won on penalties. In the conference final, they went to a hostile Philadelphia. While Philly was dealing with a COVID outbreak, they still dominated the play at home, almost beating NYCFC. New York showed they had the horses to find a late-winning goal to make MLS Cup.
2021 MLS Cup recap
MLS Cup was played at the western conference champions Portland Timbers home ground. Providence Park was rocking as the Timbers Army was in full voice to see their first MLS Cup Final played in Portland. As the match started, Portland was content to sit back against NYCFC. This was a mistake that allowed New York to dominate the flow of the match. This was evident in Portland’s lack of pressing (starting a not 100% Sebastian Blanco really hurt this effort for Portland) and awarded NYCFC the opening goal just before halftime as golden boot winner Taty Castellanoswas left unmarked on a freekick. The second half looked the same as the first until Portland made substitutions.
Portland made two subs in the 62nd minute bring on Santiago Moreno for Sebastian Blanco, and Cristhian Paredes for George Fochive. These two subs brought on players Portland used to win the western conference final, and it allowed them to play a better press. As the clock ticked on, Portland had to bring on more attackers. They brought on big names Jaroslaw Niezgoda and Diego Valeri to try to find a late equalizer. Those two couldn’t but, starting striker Felipe Mora did in the 90+4 minute. His goal made Providence Park erupt and the game went on to a 30-minutes extra time.
In extra time it looked like the momentum swung Portlands way, but they just couldn’t score what could have been the game-winning goal in front of their home fans. The match went scoreless in those two 15-minute periods, and the 2021 MLS Cup champion would be decided by penalty kicks. NYCFC was able to shoot first, and golden boot winner Taty Castellanos converted to start things off for NYC. Their goalkeeper Sean Johnson took over from there. He saved the first two Portland attempts to give NYCFC the decisive advantage. NYCFC then converted their next three shots to win MLS Cup. Their 4-2 win on penalties helped determine the MVP, as goalkeeper Sean Johnson won the award. He then lifted MLS Cup with his team ending an amazing and drama-filled 2021 MLS campaign.
Now, the MLS Offseason starts. It’s already in full swing.
the Offseason starts now
With only 11 weeks until the start of the 2022 MLS season, the offseason speed will be ramped up a bit. One day after MLS Cup there was a half-day trade window, where teams were wheeling and dealing players and allocation money to get set for their 2022 season. Today MLS will release the list of available free agents and those who have been waived, and teams have to produce their protected lists for tomorrow’s expansion draft for Charlotte FC. Charlotte will be allowed to pick five unprotected players from the other 27 MLS teams.
On top of that, Wednesday the full 2022 schedule for all 28 teams will be released, while the end-of-the-year waivers process will be conducted and free agency will open. The hectic first week of the offseason concludes with the re-entry process, stage one; this is where clubs can have a chance to pick up players waived by other teams as long as there is no bona fide offer for that player. after that, the action cools off a bit, as two days before Christmas there’s a second stage of the re-entry process. Once that concludes, all the very MLS parts of the offseason will be over, and the transfer window will soon open for clubs to make out of league transfers in and out. Here’s a look at all of this craziness in list form:
- Dec. 12 – Half-Day trade window
- Dec. 13 – Free Agents and waived player list available
- Dec 13. – Expansion Draft protected list in by 2 pm EST
- Dec 14. – Expansion
- Dec 15. – Free Agency opens
- Dec. 17 – Re-Entry Process, stage 1 happens
- Dec. 23 – Re-Entry Process, stage 2 happens
This is a crazy and fun time, and we at Philly Sports Network will be following it every step of the way with you as we only have 11 weeks until the Philadelphia Union kick off their 2022 season!
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Mandatory Credit: Diego Diaz/Icon Sportswire