Columbus Crew SC got a defensive effort and a little luck (oh that post!) to make the first leg 2-0 lead hold up, losing battle 1-0, but winning the war and the Eastern Conference Final 2-1 on aggregate. Crew SC will host the MLS Cup next Sunday, December 6th.
Crew SC yielded possession to the home side in the opening minutes, but maintained a disciplined back line to hold the Red Bulls chances to two shots through the first half while getting several chances off the counter. New York was left with long range efforts from Felipe and Sasha Kljestan that didn't really test Steve Clark.
Ethan Finlay had an early chance on Luis Robles that was blocked while a Kei Kamara chance midway through the first half was parried for a corner. Crew SC may have had 38% of the first half possession, but they led in shot totals six to two.
The biggest moment in the first half came off of a very rough Felipe foul on Federico Higuain that angered Pipa's teammates, especially Tony Tchani. Tchani appeared to half-headbutt a New York player, inflaming the Red Bulls and causing several players to be separated. No cards were given on the play aside from an initial yellow to Felipe.
New York looked to get back in the game in the second half, Crew SC held fast. They rolled out the press that stymied the Red Bulls in the first game and kept the home side from getting too many good looks as time wound down.
The Red Bulls would have one last gasp when Anatole Abang would score three minutes into stoppage time to give the Red Bulls a brief hope with a minute remaining. New York then poured numbers down field to grab the series tying goal and they almost improbably grabbed one.
With Baldemero Toledo nearly ready to blow time, the Red Bulls fired one last attack. The ball pinged around the six yard box and dribbled to the right. It caromed off the post and trickled to the side. Kamara picked up the loose ball and cleared for a corner. They withstood the final longball. Crew SC had done it.
The defense had been the Crew SC Achilles' heel. They hadn't held strong during the regular season and fell to the bottom of the defensive rankings in the league. Throughout the playoffs, the defense was reborn. Crew SC held Didier Drogba to zero goals in 210 minutes and the high-powered Red Bulls to one goal in stoppage time of the second game. The offense got them to the playoffs. The defense carried them to the MLS Cup final. A game that will be in Columbus in less than a week's time.
CORRECTION: The article originally stated that Kamara cleared the ball at the end of the game. He cleared the ball into touch.