ATLANTA -- Portland Timbers coach Giovanni Savarese lamented the "foul that wasn't a foul" that resulted in Atlanta United's second goal and criticized the officiating more generally following his team's 2-0 defeat in MLS Cup on Saturday night at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
Portland trailed 1-0 at halftime but had started the second half more encouragingly before defender Larrys Mabiala was whistled for a foul on Josef Martinez in the 53rd minute. Martinez flicked the resulting free kick into Franco Escobar's path to double the hosts' lead.
"We were courageous in the second half moving play closer to their goal," Savarese said. "I think the momentum was killed by the referee, and the foul that wasn't a foul. Because in the second half, I thought we were doing a lot better. I thought we had a lot more momentum. The second goal was hard to digest."
Added midfielder Diego Valeri: "The second goal gave them a lot of calm, and I agree with Gio that it wasn't a foul, and it changed the whole game."
The Timbers were outshot 9-8 on the night, although the majority of their chances came after they fell two goals behind. They failed in their attempt to win a second league championship in four years, instead allowing Atlanta to win its first in club history.
"I'm one that tries not to talk after, but for a final so important, and with the caliber of the referee we had, I expected more," Savarese said of referee Alan Kelly. "The little things sometimes are very important. Without taking credit away from Atlanta, a team who worked the entire season to deserve MLS Cup, but I found in this game that the officiating didn't match up to the match that we had today."