Here are the ten things we learned from the 2015 MLS Cup.
1. The Timbers are champions
It wasn’t a beautiful final, but this year’s MLS Cup from MAPFRE Stadium was a classic for all the controversy, intensity, and insanity it had from start to finish.
The Timbers, thanks to two goals in the first seven minutes, won it 2-1. In many respects, it was a tremendous performance – Portland limited Columbus to a single shot, and hit the post three times in a second half that they dominated even as the Crew pushed for an equalizer.
This has been an incredible journey for the Timbers. Just two and a half months ago, they sat in seventh place in the Western Conference before a tactical switch set the team up for a nine-game unbeaten run to win the club’s first championship in its forty year existence in its fortieth game of 2015.
Portland just got better and better. Diego Valeri’s return to health, Fanendo Adi’s maturation, Darlington Nagbe’s emergence, and the invaluable contributions of three wingers – joined with a back six that was already MLS’ best – created a force.
They deserved it. Front to back, no team was built or balanced better. This is the Rose City’s first major professional sports title since 1977, and it will be remembered in Portland for generations to come.
2. The Crew didn’t play well
There’s no way Columbus can be satisfied with how Sunday played out – and not just because of the missed call that eventually led to Portland’s second goal.
They can’t be satisfied because they didn’t play a good game. That, as much as anything, has to be a tough pill to swallow.
Steve Clark is capable of truly sensational howlers, but he outdid himself for once and for all just thirty seconds into the game when his inexplicable lack of urgency on the ball gifted the opening goal to Diego Valeri.
Clark would redeem himself somewhat – he had several terrific saves on Adi, and his denial of Nat Borchers with time running down was jaw-dropping – and the Columbus center-backs did a nice job to contain the Timbers attack through the middle.
Other than that, though, no one in yellow left was covered in glory.
Ethan Finley was mercifully pulled midway through the second half after being bottled up by Jorge Villafaña. Federico Higuain was wayward more than he was spectacular, while, for all his industry, Justin Meram threatened little.