Columbus Crew: 2020 MLS Champions

The Columbus Crew defeated the Seattle Sounders, 3-0, to win its second MLS Title in franchise history. Sadly, only 1,500 fans could be in attendance to witness the Crew’s triumph at MAPFRE Stadium. Entering the game, the biggest story appeared to be the absence of midfielders Darlington Nagbe and Pedro Santos due to positive COVID-19 results. Lucas Zelarayán, the MLS newcomer of the year and largest signing in club history, made sure that the home side did not feel these absences.

Zelarayán started the scoring for the Crew in the 25th minute off a wonderful assist from defender Harrison Afful. Six minutes later, Zelarayán set up Derrick Etienne, Jr. who doubled the Crew’s lead when he slotted his shot into the bottom corner, beating Sounders keeper Stefan Frei. Columbus was able to attack the right side of Seattle in creating those two scoring opportunities. With those two goals, the Crew headed into halftime with the lead. Although Seattle dominated possession with a 65% clip, it was Columbus that created the better chances as evidenced by the Crew’s four corner kicks and eight shots (three on goal) versus the Sounders’ zero corners and two shots (zero on goal).

The second half saw a much more aggressive Sounders side as they appeared to create more scoring opportunities in the first couple of minutes of the second than for the entirety of the first. Dominating the first 10 minutes of the final 45, Seattle spent most of the time in Columbus’ third of the field. Brian Schmetzer’s halftime adjustments had Seattle effectively attacking the Crew’s left side as Cristian Roldan made the move from midfield to right back.

The Sounders came close to getting its first goal when Roldan headed the ball over the crossbar after Nicolás Lodeiro’s corner kick. They were close again when Lodeiro’s shot went just wide of the post and Gustav Svensson’s header off Lodeiro’s corner went wide as well. The Sounders appeared to have more purpose with their possession in the second half, creating eight corners and outshooting the Crew, 11-7.

Despite the improvements on Seattle’s side, they were never able to get the ball into the back of Columbus’s net. Seattle’s last real chance to score was stymied by a huge stretching save by Crew goalie Eloy Room in the 80th minute. Thanks to some nice goalkeeping by the aforementioned Room and stout defending by the likes of Johnathon Mensah (who finished third for the MLS Defender of the Year), the home team was able to keep a clean sheet.

Finally, Lucas Zelarayán’s 82nd-minute goal clinched the game and championship for Columbus. With that second goal, Zelarayán became only the third player in MLS history, and the first since 2004, to score at least two goals in a championship game. The Crew’s win ended Seattle’s hopes of becoming the first team to repeat as champions since the LA Galaxy accomplished the feat back in 2011-12.

Who would have thought that this team, on the verge of a move to Austin, Texas, would be lifting the MLS Cup not too long after? Credit to the Haslam Family and the Crew’s diehard fans for keeping the club in Columbus. With this win, the Crew close out their time in MAPFRE Stadium as they look to defend their title in a new, unnamed stadium for the 2021 season.

Well done, Columbus.

 

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