If one had turned on the television to watch beautiful football being played in the MLS Cup Final between the Portland Timbers and the Columbus Crew, well, you certainly would not have witnessed much of that as the play was sloppy and disjointed for much of the 90 minutes.
Nonetheless, there had to be a winner and it was Portland who downed Columbus by two goals to one.
Seattle had come closest to securing a MLS Cup, in what would have been the Pacific Northwest’s first, it is their most bitter rivals who come away with the region’s and clubs’ first Cup and will have bragging rights for years to come.
Chaos ensued in the opening 30 seconds of the match after the ever reliable Steve Clark produced the first howler of the evening. Clark is confident when in possession of the ball inside his own box.
However, he wasted too much time trying to distribute a pass to his defenders and as a result, Diego Valeri closed him down fast.
Valeri stuck out a leg as Clark set to make his pass and it deflected off the Argentine and made its way into the back of the net, shocking the majority of the Mapfre crowd.
Not even ten minutes had gone by when Portland found a second goal. Rodney Wallace made a darting run to get in front of a Columbus defender and Lucas Melano delivered a pin-point cross straight onto the winger’s head.
Down by two goals, all hope had seemed lost by Columbus’ faithful, but that was at restored ever so slightly 17 minutes in after Timbers goalkeeper Adam Kwarasey made the match’s second howler. As a corner was sent into the danger zone, he attempted to go and punch away any would-be danger.
The execution though did not come to fruition as his clearance fell directly to Kei Kamara. Kamara ran back towards the middle of the 18-yard box and fired his shot low and in between a defender’s leg, cutting Portland’s lead in half.
With five minutes to go before half time, Timbers striker Fernando Adi finally got involved and had a ferocious header tipped over by Steve Clark, redeeming himself for his earlier mistake.
In the second half, Portland dictated play. They closed down the space that Columbus was trying to break through and put up a brick wall in front of Kwarasey, leaving the Ghanaian goalkeeper with little to do.
Twelve minutes after the interval, Adi had another low effort stopped by Clark at the other end.
More chaos ensued with the Timbers hitting the crossbar and posts multiple times in the latter stages of the match. The first came on the hour mark as an effort slammed off the crossbar. The next came in the 71st minute as Adi’s free header hit the far post.
There was a bit of drama late on as well after some helter skelter defending from the Crew following a corner kick. Columbus let the ball bounce far too many times and it hit both posts, as well as Michael Parkhurst’s arm, without finding the back of the net.
Clark made one more great save with only nine minutes remaining. Nat Borchers had a header a few feet away from the goal line but was stopped thanks to a quick reaction save from the Michigan-native.
Winning the MLS Cup is not always about who is the best team throughout the entire course of the season. Instead, it is often about which club catches fire at the right time and the Portland Timbers certainly came on late and sustained their fine form throughout the entirety of the playoffs.
At 29 years of age, Steve Clark is still one of the United States most underrated goalkeepers. He is technically sound on the ball inside his area, distributes the ball well, and is an excellent shot stopper – as he showed in the latter stages of the match.
However, Clark’s one mistake cost his side the title and he will certainly be kicking himself all offseason.