MLS weekend review - Timbers to face New York City FC in MLS Cup final

The MLS season is set to close with a climactic final between Portland Timbers and New York City FC, after both sides edged their way through their conference matches this week.

After a season of twists, turns and drama until the end, the final game of the MLS season is set, with Portland Timbers and NYCFC to go head-to-head in the MLS Cup Final.

By virtue of having more points in the regular season, the Timbers will host the MLS Cup Final next Saturday at Providence Park.

NYCFC leave it late

New York City FC, NYCFC celebrate their MLS Conference final win

The Eastern Conference game was not without controversy as multiple Philadelphia Union players missed the game due to COVID-19. Among those missing the game were All-Star goalkeeper Andre Blake and the Union ultimately went on to lose 2-1.

They gave a gritty and determined effort with just six starters out and 11 players overall unavailable. The game was scoreless at halftime and the Union even briefly took the lead, thanks to an own goal on the hour mark.

That lead was short-lived, though, as New York City FC went straight down the field after the kickoff to level the scoreline. Maxime Chanot's shot from distance was saved by backup keeper Matt Freese but the rebound was blasted into the net by Maxi Moralez.

The game remained 1-1 into the dying minutes, and the Union came agonizingly close to sealing their place in the final, only for Nathan Harriel's header to rattle the crossbar.

The winner then came in the 88th minute as NYCFC broke down the left flank. The ball bounced through the box where it was met by Brazilian teenager, Talles Magno.

The goal silenced the cold Subaru Park crowd of nearly 20,000 hoping to see the Union's first trip to the MLS Cup Final. Instead, NYCFC are booking their flights.

Without their usual players available, the Union shifted from a 4-4-2 to a 4-3-2-1 and they were able to push NYCFC wide for most of the game. The Pigeons were also without red-card suspended Golden Boot winner Valentin Castellanos.

He'll return for the final, and that'll give New York City fans far more confidence, the side struggled against the Union when it came to linking up the midfield and attack.

Timbers dominate Real Salt Lake

Portland Timbers, MLS Cup playoff celebration

It proved third time unlucky for Real Salt Lake, who had managed in their previous two playoff games to bunker down their defense and win on the counter-attack or via penalties.

But the Portland Timbers made sure to give themselves an early lead on Saturday, despite playing without injured star Sebastian Blanco.

Felipe Mora scored in the fifth minute to send Providence Park into a frenzy, before RSL had a chance of their own 33 minutes in. Damir Kreilach's shot from close range was saved by Steve Clark, and the Timbers punished their miss by doubling their lead through Santiago Moreno.

After going 2-0 up, the Timbers seemed happy to sit back and defend their route to the final. That mission became easier when RSL defender Aaron Herrera picked up a second yellow card in the 79th minute, reducing the visitors to 10 men. Clark and the defense didn't face another shot and posted their second straight clean sheet.

Portland has never hosted an MLS Cup Final before, but with home advantage they can feel confident about bringing home their second trophy after their win back in 2015.

The final is set to take place on December 11.

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