For the first time in their history, the Portland Timbers are MLS Cup Champions. They finished the season with the third-best record in the Western Conference, meaning they've been without home-field advantage for their last two playoff series and Sunday's final. But they overcame a hostile crowd, beating the Columbus Crew 2-1.
This game is likely to be remembered forever by the goal that came 27 seconds in. And unfortunately for Crew goalkeeper Steve Clark, it's unlikely to be a moment he ever lives down. While trying to get cute with the ball at his feet in his own box, he took an errant touch and gifted a goal to Diego Valeri, who was named MVP of the game.
Don’t blink. You’re watching the fastest goal in #MLSCup history at 27 seconds, courtesy of @DiegoDv8. https://t.co/m3wsmpQ1RZ— Major League Soccer (@MLS) December 6, 2015
Columbus were clearly rattled by starting as poorly as they possibly could and gave up a second goal quickly. Lucas Melano set up his team's second with a spectacular cross that was headed in by Rodney Wallace, but the goal was more notable for what happened in the build-up. Tony Tchani quit on the play to complain to the referee, allowing Darlington Nagbe to run through midfield unopposed. And as it turned out, he had a very good reason to be upset -- the goal never should have happened.
Another angle of the pass that went out of bounds before Portland's 2nd goal. AR takes his eye off the play. #MLSCup pic.twitter.com/yraue2OMaO— Ben Jata (@Ben_Jata) December 6, 2015
But despite those setbacks, the Crew fought back and cut the lead in half in the 18th minute. Anything Steve Clarke could do, Adam Kwarasey apparently resolved to do better. While his error didn't come in the first 30 seconds, and wasn't necessarily the result of an awful decision, it was just as comical as the one that happened on the other end.
Goal Kei Kamara. 2-1. #MLSCup #CrewSC https://t.co/8UBcvtekhE— Ben Jata (@Ben_Jata) December 6, 2015
On Friday, the Crew weren't sure whether or not Kamara would be able to play in the final at all. He pulled up in training and slammed on the ground while in serious pain, but it was just a knock. This was his 26th goal of the year between the regular season and playoffs, the best in MLS this season.
The rest of the first half was even and a bit chaotic, but things settled down in the second half, and in Portland's favor. While the Crew had to be furious at the blown call that led to Portland's second goal, they could hardly claim the Crew didn't deserve to win the match. Portland had all of the better chances in the second half, and they could have had a penalty and one-man advantage after this apparent handball by Michael Parkhurst, even if referee Jair Marrufo didn't see it that way.
Did @ColumbusCrewSC's Michael Parkhurst get away with a hand ball here? WATCH: https://t.co/lYfjONVDAt— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) December 6, 2015
The goal would ultimately be the Crew's only shot on target in the entire match, while Clark almost made up for his earlier error with a number of great saves. In fact, Kamara's goal was the only Columbus Crew SC shot that came close to finding the back of the net. The shot chart from the MLS Matchcenter is a pretty good representation of how much better the Timbers were than the Crew in the final third.
The defensive stats look particularly good for Diego Chara, who perhaps should have earned the MVP nod over Valeri. His eight tackles on the night were more than any two Crew players combined.
Columbus didn't even have that much of the ball until the final 10 minutes, when Portland started packing everyone behind the ball and getting conservative. And once that happened, the home team never looked like they'd be able to find the goal to send the match into extra time, as the Timbers comfortably held on to win the title.
That's all she wrote. #MLSCup https://t.co/E6QtF3koyn— Major League Soccer (@MLS) December 6, 2015
If that sounds like a very loud cheer for the away team winning, you'd be right. The Portland Timbers brought a massive contingent to Columbus for the game.
Euphoria at full-time from @timbersarmy! #RCTID #MLSCup pic.twitter.com/wvqEM0LoOo— Major League Soccer (@MLS) December 6, 2015
And now they get to celebrate their club winning their first ever trophy as an MLS club.