Major League Soccer

New York City FC-Timbers Preview

New York City FC believe it can win an MLS Cup on Saturday, even if the Portland Timbers are widely considered favorites.

NYCFC is chasing its first title this year but must go into Portland's Providence Park for the highly anticipated final.

The Timbers have experience at this stage, too, having won the championship in 2015 and losing to Atlanta United three years later.

City does not doubt it can rise to the occasion, though

"It's about our performance and we have the confidence that we know if we're performing well, we can beat anybody," coach Ronny Deila said. "And that's something that the teams who play against us know. And we have shown that over and over again over a long time. I'm quite convinced that we're in the right mode to go out and perform."

"I don't think this team considers ourselves as underdogs. I don't think we ever have," goalkeeper Sean Johnson added. "I think we've been a team that's been confident in our abilities."

Portland coach Gio Savarese is aware of the threat NYCFC pose, but he is excited by the prospect of Providence Park hosting the title match for the first time.

"I believe it's going to be a great event because of what we're used to in the stadium – our fans and the atmosphere that you're going to encounter," he said. "So we're very excited as a club to be able to host MLS Cup, and we know that we have a very good team to play against."

Diego Valeri, the MVP in the 2015 final, is also thrilled about the Timbers having a chance to win a championship on their home turf.

"It's all we want, it's all we want," he said ."We want to have our supporters, our city celebrating things like this. "And obviously (until) this point, we didn't have the chance to do it in our house, so that's going to be very special.

"But we know that we have to perform and play a game in order to celebrate and have them happy."

Portland Timbers – Sebastian Blanco

Blanco has succeeded compatriot Valeri as Portland's most influential creative star, but he has faced a race to be fit for MLS Cup after a hamstring injury in the playoffs. Although the Timbers would not confirm his status this week, the midfielder will surely have a big say on Saturday.

New York City FC – Valentin Castellanos

Castellanos has 19 goals this season but missed the Eastern Conference Final following his red card in the previous round. He will be back against Portland and in the spotlight after reports of NYCFC rejecting a bid from Besiktas for its main man.

– This will be the seventh meeting between the Timbers and New York City, and the first since the quarterfinal of the MLS is Back tournament on August 1, 2020. Portland has won five of the previous six, including winning 3–1 en route to winning MLS is Back.

– This is the first time in league history that MLS Cup opponents did not square off in the regular season.

– The Timbers can become the eighth team to win multiple MLS Cup titles, while New York City FC is making their first appearance in the final. Of the 16 teams to reach MLS Cup previously, nine won in their first appearance in the showpiece match.

– Portland has won 13 of their past 17 games (D1 L3) dating back to a 2–0 win over Seattle in late August. From that win until the end of the regular season, the Timbers were the best team in MLS by most measures, including points, wins, goals and goal difference.

– NYCFC has reached the MLS Cup despite collecting just 1.50 points per match during the regular season (51 in 34 games). Over the past 10 seasons, only two MLS Cup finalists took fewer points per match in the regular season (Toronto 1.47 in 2019, Seattle 1.41 in 2016).

Updated December 10, 2021