Johnson the hero as City knocked down Timbers to win MLS Cup

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Portland (AFP) – Goalkeeper Sean Johnson was the hero when New York City FC beat the Portland Timbers on penalties to win the MLS Cup for the first time on Saturday.

City goaltender Johnson saved two Portland shots on goal in a rain-swept Providence Park in Portland to set up a 4-2 shootout victory for New York.

Johnson’s first two saves gave Alex Callens the chance to break through the game-winning shot past Steve Clark of Portland.

“We said before the shooting ‘Embrace the moment’,” Johnson said afterwards. “I just wanted to stay there and do what I can to help the team.

“We took a giant step forward. I was able to save a couple and the boys buried the rest.”

The Major League Soccer championship game ended in a penalty shoot-out after going 1-1 after extra time.

Earlier, Portland hit a controversial equalizer in the dying seconds of the final minute of stoppage time to extend the game into overtime.

New York appeared to be seconds away from its first MLS championship after Valentin Castellanos’ 41st-minute header gave them a deserved lead.

But with the seconds ticking, Portland rushed to find an equalizer.

After controlling the fight for long stretches, nerves seemed to get the better of City, who failed to properly clear their lines as the Timbers pressed.

Finally, the pressure came when a speculative header into the box from Colombian striker Yimmi Chara caused panic in City’s defense.

Jaroslaw Niezgoda’s shot was blocked by City Defender Callens, but only in the path of forward Felipe Mora, who slammed his finish in the net in front of Johnson.

City players protested furiously as defender Maxim Chanot appeared to have been fouled in preparation for Portland’s Larrys Mabiala, but the goal was held up.

New York dominates

Earlier, New York City had dominated a rambling game, controlling possession for long stretches without seriously testing Clark in the Portland goal.

Portland was equally ineffective, struggling to create anything like a scoring opportunity as they tried to disrupt City’s smooth pass early on.

The breakthrough for City came shortly before half-time, when Timbers defender Claudio Bravo knocked down City’s full-back Tayvon Gray on the sidelines on the right.

Argentina veteran Maxi Moralez unleashed a precise free kick to find his unmarked compatriot Castellanos at the edge of the six-yard zone.

The City forward’s header was low and hard, but Clark was slow to respond and the ball sprang from the greasy surface into the Timbers’ net.

In the goal celebrations that followed, City winger Jesus Medina was hit by a can of beer thrown from the stands, sending the Paraguayan crumble on the grass, squeezing his face.

With Portland offering little in the way of a goal threat, City started the second half in search of the second goal to put the game beyond doubt.

Moralez hit the crossbar on a free kick in the 50th minute, and Santiago Rodriguez and Medina both made saves from Clark early in the second half.

But City couldn’t extend their lead and paid the price for a nervous defense when Mora jumped into stoppage time.

Portland seemed the most likely team to win in overtime, and Paraguayan substitute Cristhian Paredes was almost the hero when his curling shot was parried by the Johnson dive in the 112th minute.

But neither team managed to catch a winner to stage the shootout.

Portland was immediately put out when Johnson rescued Mora and Diego Valeri to leave New York in charge.

This gave Callens the chance to seal the victory, and the Peruvian defender stepped in to bring the winner home.

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