Many people made predictions for the 2015 MLS Cup Final between Columbus Crew SC and the Portland Timbers, but nobody foresaw the craziness that went down at MAPFRE Stadium.
The game had everything: goalkeeper mistakes, missed calls, a couple crucial bounces and a frenzied last 15 minutes. It started with nerves playing a huge part (in people from Crew goalie Steve Clark to the assistant referee) and ended with an unsuccessful-yet-hectic comeback from Columbus in the last quarter-hour.
If you didn't catch that game, you were missing out.
Here are the winners and losers:
Winner: Caleb Porter
The Timbers' coach made a monumental tactical switch eight games ago that sparked his team's run: Porter changed his formation to 4-3-3 and stuck Darlington Nagbe in a central midfield role. Without this, Portland likely wouldn't be hoisting the cup, and maybe wouldn't even have played for it.
The manager gave credit to Argentine playmaker Diego Valeri in the post-game press conference for his help in figuring out how to win games, but there's no doubt that the former Akron and United States U-23 coach deserves props for how he's handled this club.
Loser: Kei Kamara
Kamara was a huge factor in the Crew's playoff success, but ultimately didn't have the impact necessary for his team. While he managed to score a goal thanks to Adam Kwarsey's blunder, the Sierra Leone-international wasn't a presence in the box. Part of this can be attributed to Nat Borchers's excellent defense, but Kamara really should have done better.
Championships have eluded Kamara since he was drafted by the Crew back in 2006. He left Ohio the year before Columbus won their first cup, in 2008, and joined the Houston Dynamo two years after they won it all. He joined Sporting KC in 2009, but left for Middlesborough in England just a couple months before they claimed victory. Kamara had his chance to secure his first trophy, but he and the Crew were unable to make it happen.
Winner: Rodney Wallace
Portland's winger was given the start and didn't disappoint, scoring what would eventually be the winning goal on a diving header from Lucas Melano's cross.
Wallace had a good campaign for the Timbers this season and will surely secure a spot in the first team next season.
Loser: Ethan Finlay
As mlssoccer.com's Matt Doyle said, "Ethan Finlay had a really, really bad game." Finlay, to put bluntly, didn't do anything. He played a major role in the Crew's lack of offensive production.
Finlay's fellow winger Justin Meram ended up on the ground more than anybody else. Aside from that, he didn't contribute much. The Timbers can thank Jorge Villafaña and Alvas Powell for that. The full-backs were great for the visitors.
Columbus turned out to be a great host for the 20th MLS Cup. Some would have liked it to be in Portland, where the supporters are some of the best in sports, but Ohio fans didn't disappoint. The Timbers fans weren't absent, though. There weren't any real chainsaws, but they were present nonetheless.
It was a great game and great atmosphere for the league. The only problem was the poor officiating.
It just wasn't Clark's and Kwarsey's day.
Both keepers made terrible blunders. Clark, who hasn't missed a minute in two years, got a little too cute on a back pass from Wil Trapp and allowed Valeri to slide the ball into the empty net. Kwarsey failed to get anything on a lofted ball in the box, so Kamara was able to turn around and slide it through the legs of Powell to cut the lead in half.
You have to feel for them, especially Clark. Everyone makes mistakes.