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Timbers crowned MLS Cup champions in wild, controversial final

Photo by Geoff Burke/USA Today Sports
Photo by Geoff Burke/USA Today Sports

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Goals, entertainment, drama, controversy. The 2015 MLS Cup Final had it all, and in the end, it was the Portland Timbers who were standing tallest.

The Timbers won the MLS Cup on Sunday evening by defeating the Columbus Crew, 2-1, at Mapfre Stadium in a wild match littered with major talking points. Both of the Timbers’ goals came in the opening seven minutes, with Diego Valeri pouncing on a Steve Clark mistake after just 27 seconds and Rodney Wallace heading home moments later on a controversial play.

Diego Chara hit a pass in the seventh minute that clearly went out of bounds before being flicked back in by Alves Powell. Tony Tchani attempted to dribble the ball out for a throw-in, but Darlington Nagbe picked the pocket of the Crew midfielder before hitting a pass that Lucas Melano crossed to Wallace.

The Crew pulled one back in the 18th minute through Kei Kamara to give themselves a chance, but never were able to muster enough quality in the final third to find an equalizer.

The MLS Cup title is the Timbers’ first.

Valeri scored the fastest goal in MLS Cup history, taking advantage of a poor touch from Crew goalkeeper Clark. Wil Trapp hit a back pass on the play to Clark, whose touch allowed the ball to get away from him and close enough for the onrushing Valeri to slide in for the finish.

The Timbers’ dream start was made even sweeter in the seventh minute, but under controversial circumstances due to the missed call on the sideline. After referee Jair Marrufo allowed play to continue despite the ball clearly going out of bounds, Nagbe fed Melano down the right flank and the Argentine then whipped in a sublime cross to the back post for Wallace to nod home with ease.

The ensuing celebration from Wallace and the Timbers at the right corner was spoiled by Crew fans throwing projectiles onto the field.

Kei Kamara pulled the Crew back into the match in the 18th minute, firing a close-range effort through a crowd after the ball pinged around the six-yard box.

The closest the Crew came to finding an equalizer was in the 22nd minute, as Federico Higuain hit a low shot that pulled wide of the far post.

The Timbers almost made it 3-1 in the 40th minute when Fanendo Adi forced Clark to make a save on a low effort from the left side of the penalty area.

Adi tried to beat Clark again in the 57th minute, but he hit a tame low shot that was gobbled up easily by the Crew goalkeeper.

The Crew were saved from falling further behind at the hour-mark. Two shots were saved off the line before another goal-bound attempt from close nicked off the post and was cleared. There was some controversy on the play, too, as Michael Parkhurst handled the ball as it came down to meet the post.

The post came to the Crew’s rescue again in the 70th minute when Adi hit a looping header over Clark. The ball ricocheted off the far post, and crashed into Clark before going out for a corner kick.

The Timbers nearly found the back of the net in the 81st, but Clark swallowed Borchers’ header.

In the 82nd minute, Clark came up big to deny Adi on a sizzling shot from the left.


  1. Lots of salty Sounders tears in this thread. Go ahead, wear that microsoft jersey with a star over the crest. It’s cool. That’s not weak at all. Better yet, add stars from USOC titles too.

    Worst fans in America.

  2. Unfortunate that this article doesn’t even mention who the assistant referee was: Corey Parker.

    As a linesman, Parker MUST be looking at the play in this situation. He needs to be suspended / terminated.

    Marrufo once called a phantom red against Gino Padula for a “foul” on Cuahtemoc Blanco, and then after the match accepted Blanco’s signed jersey in the tunnel at Crew Stadium. How this guy is still a referee is baffling. How he is still assigned to Crew matches is infuriating.

  3. As a RBNY supporter, I’m looking at Columbus’s woes yesterday as some weird example of payback. Meram’s first-minute goal in the first leg was matched by Valeri’s goal yesterday. And Portland’s second goal bore at least a family resemblance to one of the Columbus goals in the 2008 final, when Schelotto swooped in to steal a ball that a RBNY player was trying to shield as it was going out of bounds (it never did) and started the play that led to the goal. I can only hope that all the bad luck that has hounded RBNY/Metro for all these years has been transferred to Columbus.

  4. A fun game for a neutral. For a while I thought Columbus would come back but Portland had enough to hang on.
    On the other hand, the officiating in this game was embarrassing. Of course, the ball out of bounds. But even more important, ignoring a player down with an apparent head injury; failing to attend to a player down at a dead ball; failing to award yellow cards for tackles from behind and for “professional” fouls and so on. The most embarrassing part is that these are easy calls. If you miss a hand ball on a bang, bang play in the box, that’s understandable. It happens all the time. But Marufo, as he usually does, missed calls high school refs can get right. How hard can it be to raise the level of officiating? Or, was Marufo following instructions — to keep the game moving and finish in the assigned TV slot?
    Finally, I enjoy Taylor T as an analyst, but “letting them play” is not a good thing. The game has rules for a reason and ought to be played within those rules.

  5. Once again, a horrible missed call on a ball, clearly out of bounds, gave Portland their second goal and the game. How anybody can be excited about a victory, based on a horrible, horrible mistake is beyond me. The score shows a 2-1 win but it is a hollow victory.

    Did anybody else notice that Geiger was shunned from all the semi’s and the final? I guess after he blew the call in the Revs-Washington game, the league said no mas to Geiger.

    • As a neutral, I have to say Portland clearly deserved the win, blown call or not. It was just bad luck that they didn’t score 3 or 4 more while the Crew created very few chances. The outcome was a fair one given how well the two teams played.

    • Common Butch, you serious? How about the missed call on the handball on the goal line? Sure seems like one goal that shouldn’t have been but was and one that should have been but wasn’t. still 2-1 no matter how you slice it. Also, the Kamara goal was an absolute gift from Kwarasey. If he doesn’t completely wiff on that it’s a clean sheet. Oh, and by the way, after that goal in the 18th minute the Crew didn’t get another shot on goal. Fairly dominant performance by Portland and VERY satisfying. The only thing hollow is your argument.

      • When a totally blown call ends up with the winning goal being scored then the result is tainted. Portland can celebrate all they want but in the end, they know the second goal shouldnt have counted. All the rest doesnt matter. They won on a cheat goal, end of story

    • Just curious, why the dislike for Kamara? When I heard him interviewed before the game he impressed me as well spoken and a team player. Also, when he had the tryout in the EPL a couple of seasons back I thought he did well when given the chance and wasn’t given a fair shake since they cut him.

    • Just found him to be a clown during the RBNY series. To be fair, I was also happy to see Clark make a ludicrous error that cost his team after he took about a minute to take every goal kick in the game at RBA.

  6. There are so many discretionary calls I’m soccer. The ref has the final say in so many situations. A ball that is a 12″ over the touch line should not be one of those. Tchani was stupid to stop playing but this situation only proves how far MLS and soccer in this country has to go. You can’t expect big tv money with amateur refereeing.

    • Refs make mistakes all over the world. Tchani should have kept playing and when the blown call was made Portland had the ball about 45 yards from goal near the touchline. Columbus still had plenty of opportunity to prevent that goal.

  7. There has been a lot made of the blown sidelines call that supposedly led to the Timbers second goal, but the reality is that it was a fairly minor error that should have had little impact. The problem was not the no call, which was not particularly advatageous to the Timbers because the ball was at the feet and in the possession of a Crew player, but that the Crew player did not play the whistle, and the Timbers players did. The fact is the call happened far from the goal on the sidelines and the ball was at the feet of the Crew player whocould of just as easily taken advantage of the situation but did not. A much more serious missed call was Parkhurst hand ball that should have not only resulted in a penalty kick, but a red card to Parkhurst for denying a clear goal scoring opportunity.

    However, it was a very sloppily reffed game.

  8. Timbers fan who is so excited.
    The Portland defense was solid in the second half, and they were still creating a lot of chances. That old adage the best defense is a good offense seemed right today.
    Columbus just wasn’t able to produce enough good chances.
    Thanks for the faith Ives “Don’t sleep on Portland” Galarcep.

  9. Not a Columbus fan, but I’ve got to recognize that was an immense game for Trapp. He stabilized the Crew backline with his help, broke up countless Timber plays and was excellent in linking up with the offense. For my money, he was the best player on the field.

    But that’s small consolation when Columbus had no real answer in the final third, and Trapp spent much of the game covering for the mistakes of Afful and Tschani as well as Meram & Finlay’s repeated loss of possession.

  10. Congrats to Timber fans! Great fan base that’s deserving of praise and reward.

    (Disclaimer: Still a firm believer the Supporters Shield should be THE preeminent trophy in MLS in lieu of a 4 series playoff – rendering the regular season fairly pointless to watch for fans.)

      • There is something to be said, however, for the growth and development of a team over the course of a season. A team that learns how to use its various parts, picks up a key player along the way, and is playing the best ball at the end should be the champion.

      • Yeah that would be nice but it’s still harder to maintain a high level performance over a 34 game seven month season than a month 5/6 game playoff run.

    • I remember Arsene Wenger commenting on some of the upsets in the World Cup group stages and mentioned the fact that anyone can be at the top of the table after 3 games….Portland was a great playoff team but no way the best team in MLS this season–they were actually a pretty poor and dull team to watch at certain stretches. The playoff system likely won’t change but I think the league would best take a look at what they want to value….as a casual fan of the MLS what’s my incentive to tune in if the only thing that matters is the playoffs?

      • I mean the second Timbers goal. I did not see the game, but the article above said the official failed to note that the ball had gone out of bounds and allowed play to continue. Is that accurate from what you saw?

      • The ARs in the Eastern conference final round 2 left a lot to be desired as well when NYRB almost scored a second goal at the end of the game when a player was in a clear offside position. Not one from a split second decision but one any high level official should get.
        It looked out of bounds just hard to see at that angle. Too bad the best ref at PRO couldn’t officiate due to a technicality.

      • Looked out of bounds to me. The game played out the way it did. At least Geiger wasn’t in the center ruining the game.

  11. Linesmen were poor entire game where ref started to overrule them later in game.

    Justin Meram, Federico Higuaín, and Ethan Finlay were poor, so Columbus had no width. Jorge Villafaña is my man of match, with Nagbe, and Chará close seconds..


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