Friday, June 9, 2023

New York City FC advance to first-ever MLS Cup, to face Portland in final after putting away Philadelphia

For the first time in club history, New York City FC are headed to the MLS Cup. Just barely. The Blues, heavy favorites against a COVID-stricken Philadelphia Union, earned a dramatic, and at times, unimpressive 2-1 win, getting a late goal from Talles Magno to advance to the final. The Union had 11 players in the league’s health and safety protocols, leaving them incredibly shorthanded for this match. That included star goalkeeper Andre Blake, arguably the best at his position in all of Major League Soccer. NYCFC had to come from behind to get the win, quickly responding after going down 1-0. They’ll now face the Portland Timbers on the road Dec. 11 for the title. 

The Union, impressive despite so many absences, managed to get the opener in the 63rd minute on an own goal from Alexander Callens, but it took just two minutes for NYCFC to respond with Maxi Moralez firing home a loose ball in the box to shift the momentum back to the hosts.

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The minutes carried on with both teams getting deep into the attacking third, but clear chances were hard to come by. That was until a blunder by Philly right back Olivier Mbaizo, who failed to defend a high ball, allowing Gudmundur Thorarinsson to scoop it up, play it across the face of goal and set up the young Brazilian for the winner. Take a look:

What a moment for this club, one they thought their prior teams featuring legends such as David Villa, Frank Lampard and Andrea Pirlo would be able to accomplish, but here they are. Ninety minutes away from the summit of MLS, it was far from easy. With Philly down so many players, it was expected to be a much more comfortable victory, but the hosts were able to defend well for the first hour and nearly pulled off what would have been quite the upset.

Now the page turns to the final, featuring two teams that are more than deserving of their berth. Portland will enter as the slight favorites as it’s playing at home, but NYCFC were able to beat New England and Philly on the road in the playoffs, so no road match will be too intimidating to a team with a ton of attacking talent. 

While this will be NYCFC’s first appearance in an MLS Cup, it will be Portland’s third after winning it in 2015 against a Gregg Berhalter-led Columbus Crew before losing the 2018 final to Tata Martino’s Atlanta United.

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