The Portland Timbers won their first MLS Cup since entering the league in 2011 at the MAPFRE Stadium in Columbus on Saturday night against a disappointing Columbus Crew SC. The game was played out in front of a great atmosphere, but unfortunately for the home team they could not raise their game against a composed and clinical Portland Timbers.
Christmas had come early for Portland with Steve Clark giving them a gift inside the first minute. He received a simple back pass and in what seemed like slow motion took a touch across goal in an attempt to clear, allowing Diego Valeri to slide in and deflect the ball into an empty net. He had been dodging a major mistake all season as a goalkeeper that likes to play the ball out of defense, but unfortunately this had to happen in the biggest game of the season.
This goal appeared to knock the confidence out of the Crew and they were punished six minutes later in controversial fashion. With Tony Tchani convinced the ball went out of play Darlington Nagbe kept up the chase, dispossessed him, and played the ball out wide for Lucas Melano to dispatch a first time cross to the back post. Rodney Wallace found space away from Harrison Afful to connect with a diving header past Clark.
Columbus were looking dead and buried at this point, but with Kei Kamara (the league’s top goal scorer in their team) they could always count on a goal, which he delivered on 17 minutes. After a hopeful ball into the box found Justin Meram’s head, Portland goalkeeper Adam Kwarasey also got in on the errors and his soft punch found Kamara, who swiveled and dispatched into the goal.
The goal finally settled Columbus and they were starting to exert some control on the game, but were unable to create any clear chances with both Meram and Ethan Finlay unable to offer much going forward.
The crowd were expecting a strong second half from Crew SC, but they were unable to respond with Portland looking the more dangerous. Columbus were riding their luck on 60 minutes when it seemed certain that Portland would score. After a left field corner the ball found Wallace and his shot was cleared off the line by Michael Parkhurst onto Kamara, who could only hook the ball against the underside of the crossbar and back against Parkhurst and the post before being cleared.
Portland again came close to finishing the game off on 70 minutes and again it was the post to the rescue for Columbus. A Jorge Villafana left field cross found Fanendo Adi, whose excellent header beat Clark, but hit the post and back against Clark, who did well to react and clear the ball.
Clark went some way to atoning for his earlier error with a fabulous reflex save on 81 minutes from a close range header from Nat Borchers.
With all of Columbus subs present on the pitch, including the semifinal hero Cedrick Mabwati, the Black & Gold were unable to test the keeper in the closing stages without a shot on goal and the game faded out for the home side.