The MLS final ended in disappointment for past and present All Whites Gavin Wilkinson and Bill Tuiloma, as their Portland Timbers side were beaten 2-0 by Atlanta United yesterday.

Tuiloma, who joined the Timbers last year after four seasons in France, was an unused substitute.

Wilkinson has had a 16-year association with Portland, first as a player, then first-team coach and now as general manager and technical director.

But the Kiwi pair and the rest of the Timbers could not stop Atlanta having another team to call champions.


Josef Martinez and Franco Escobar scored goals, Brad Guzan came up with a couple of clutch saves and Atlanta United gave the city its first title since 1995.

Cheered on by the largest crowd in franchise history, United captured the crown in just their second season to set off a huge celebration in a city that has known much sporting heartbreak. Owner Arthur Blank got to lift the trophy - less than two years after his other team, the NFL's Falcons, squandered a 25-point lead in an epic Super Bowl collapse.

"My first night in my new house in Atlanta, I went to bed at halftime of the Super Bowl," defender Jeff Larentowicz said. "I woke up and I read the headlines and I couldn't believe what I saw."

Now, United have written a new headline - champions.

"Hopefully, we can transcend that past," Larentowicz said, "and move on to a new future for the city."

Martinez, capping the greatest scoring season in MLS history, put United ahead in 39th minute. Escobar added an insurance goal in the 54th, turning the final minutes into a raucous, flag-waving celebration and sending coach Tata Martino out with a title in his final game as coach. He's reportedly headed to Mexico to take over as that country's national coach.

"If I had to choose the way to leave somewhere, this is the best way," Martino said. "This is the way I wanted it to happen."

Atlanta revelled in their first title since the Braves won the 1995 World Series - a gap of 8442 days, for those counting.

"Most of us aren't from here, so we don't know the pain they've been through," said United captain Michael Parkhurst, who finally won an MLS title after playing on four runners-up teams. "I'm just happy we could come through for them. I know there were a lot of anxious and stressed-out fans."

After a surprising run in the playoffs, the Timbers were denied their second MLS championship after winning the cup in 2015. They prevailed on the road at Dallas, Seattle and Kansas City before coming up short in Atlanta.

"I'm extremely proud of the work we've had the entire season," coach Giovanni Savaarese said. "To be able to get to the MLS Cup, we played a lot of difficult teams."

Since major league sports came to Atlanta in 1966, the only other team to win a championship in one of the five major sports also came on the football pitch. The Atlanta Chiefs claimed the title in the North American Soccer League's inaugural season in 1968.

While that team laid the groundwork, Atlanta United carried the sport to unprecedented levels in North America.

The team shattered the MLS attendance record a year ago in their first season, and then took the mark even higher by averaging more than 53,000 per game this year.

- AP