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Massive Predictions: MLS Cup 2020

How does our staff feel about the Black & Gold’s chances in their third ever MLS Cup?

MLS: Columbus Crew SC at Seattle Sounders FC Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports

For the biggest game of the 2020 Major League Soccer season, the attention of the league is on Columbus, Ohio. The MLS Cup Final returns to central Ohio as the Columbus Crew plays host to the Seattle Sounders. While it’s only the Black & Gold’s third appearance in the league’s most coveted fixture, the Sounds will be in their fourth in a mere five years after joining the league as an expansion side in 2008.

While the Crew was dealt a double blow Thursday after learning star players Darlington Nagbe and Pedro Santos would be ruled out of Saturday’s contest, the show must go on.

Let’s take a look at how our staff feels ahead of the Crew’s first MLS Cup appearance since 2015.

Drew Niccum

I’ve been wavering back and forth on how this game is going to go. On the one hand, Columbus has home-field advantage and one of the staunchest defenses in the league. On the other hand, Seattle is a team of champions with one of the greatest playoff goal scorers in league history in Raul Ruidiaz. And now, with the news that Darlington Nagbe and Pedro Santos aren’t medically cleared to play, the Crew’s path to victory is even harder.

Regardless, I still think this will be a close game considering it is a cup final that both teams will desperately want to win. It will be difficult, but I still believe the Crew can pull this off. The game will go to penalties, where Columbus will eke out a win to secure their second MLS Cup.
Columbus Crew 2 Seattle Sounders 2 (Crew wins in penalty kicks)

Collin Johnson

It’s finally here. The end of one of the strangest seasons any of us will (hopefully) ever see comes on Saturday in Columbus. Most Crew fans would have felt confident predicting their team to make it to MLS Cup at the end of September when the Black & Gold were flying high on the back end of the MLS restart. The Crew fell off the pace in October as injuries piled up, but the playoffs have seen a return to that early-season form.

In Seattle, Columbus finds the most successful team in MLS over the past half decade. The Sounders boast a strong attack and championship experience. If the Crew can continue their return to the early and midseason team we saw, they are capable of beating anyone.
Columbus Crew 2 Seattle Sounders 1

Thomas Costello

The Crew faces a tough Seattle Sounders side, a side that is full of experience in playoff and MLS Cup situations. Coming back from 2-0 down to Minnesota United in the final 15 minutes of regulation is a perfect example of who they are as a team.

With news breaking that both Darlington Nagbe and Pedro Santos are going to be unavailable for the match, it’s going to diminish Columbus’ chances. Columbus is used to playing through injuries throughout the season, but the match will start off much slower than anticipated for Columbus. The Crew will make the best of their opportunities and play tight defensively. It will give them an opportunity to stay in the game, but not enough to win. Seattle will win with Gyasi Zardes scoring a goal for the Black & Gold.
Seattle Sounders 2 Columbus Crew 1

Orri Benatar

This 2020 has been a weird, dramatic, unpredictable year around the world. Those adjectives also apply to the MLS season and they will apply to the MLS Cup Final in Columbus this Saturday. After the match ends at 1-1 through 90 minutes, it will end at 2-2 after 120 and then with the home-field advantage going their way, the Crew will win in penalties against Seattle. I know it’s out of the box and if I get this pick right, I apologize in advance to Columbus and Sounders fans whose heart rates and nerves will be pumping all night.
Columbus Crew 2 Seattle Sounders 2 (Crew wins in penalty kicks)

Patrick Murphy

This Crew team is very talented. But I came into the year thinking this was a group that was a year away from winning the MLS Cup. The team has exceeded my expectations by making it to the Final, surviving the most difficult season in MLS history, but I stand by my original thoughts.

Prior to the news that Darlington Nagbe and Pedros Santos would not play, I was going to pick the Sounders, the defending MLS Cup champions, in a tight one. Without two key players on the field for the Black & Gold, that made me even more comfortable in my pick. But get used to this game Crew fans. Your team is going to be contending for the foreseeable future.
Seattle Sounders 3 Columbus Crew 1

Nick Hudak

Given the nightmare-ish news that broke late Thursday night, my mood has flipped drastically. It’s becoming increasingly hard to keep up the optimism heading into Saturday and you better believe if Caleb Porter had a clean slate to choose from, I’d bet the house on Columbus. Considering the circumstances, I’m a little bit more skeptical, and for good reason.

A Crew team that loses Pedro Santos, the scorer of 33 percent of the Crew’s goals this postseason is devastating. While Derrick Etienne and Youness Mokhtar are more-than-serviceable replacements, what’s even more devastating is the loss of midfielder Darlington Nagbe who’s arguably the most important player this Crew roster boasts. The lack of his presence will be felt, considering the Akron product has two MLS Cup victories under his belt and isn’t new to the big stage. Nor are the Sounders who know all too well what being in this position is like. The extensive road trip for the traveling side also leads me to believe that not all hope is lost, but it means that Lucas Zelarayan will have to have his best night yet in a Crew shirt by a mile to make up for the losses on Porter’s team sheet.

We all saw the on-field product when several key players went on the injured list during the regular season. The team lacked an identity and dropped games it shouldn’t have against far inferior competition (Montreal, Cincinnati). Was it more Zelarayan or Nagbe whose absence was more imperative to the Crew’s dip in form? Was it both? Probably so. For me, Nagbe has been the beating heart of this Crew team. He’s simply irreplaceable. Without him and Santos taking the field in the biggest game of the season, it’s hard for me to paint a picture where Columbus comes out on top Saturday night.
Seattle Sounders 3 Columbus Crew 1

Abigail Hintz

There’s really no telling how this game is going to play out. There is no denying Seattle’s talent, having made an appearance in three of the last four MLS Cups and winning two of those. However, the Crew’s performance at home has been outstanding this season as they have only lost one match. Caleb Porter’s sights have been set on this trophy since he came to Columbus and there is really only one scenario playing out in his mind it seems: to lift the MLS Cup Saturday night. I believe that is completely attainable for the Black & Gold as long as they play to their full potential.
Columbus Crew SC 2 Seattle Sounders 1

Doug Hildreth

All season, the Crew has relied on depth to navigate absences from some of their key players. They will need that experience as they work to overcome missing Pedro Santos and Darlington Nagbe. These absences will put more pressure on the back four to sustain the high-octane attack of Seattle, but this defense has proven to be up for the job. This will be a low scoring affair.

Columbus Crew 2 Seattle Sounders 1

Jay Homan

With the recent news of Darlington Nagbe and Pedro Santos out for the MLS Cup, it is hard to rationalize how Columbus will win this match. Prior to the announcement, I had faith that Columbus would come away with the win, but it is hard to imagine any club winning MLS Cup while missing two of its biggest contributors from the season. There is potential that with the Crew’s depth at winger, there may only be a small drop off in productivity in the attack with the vacancy of Santos. Aidan Morris on the other hand, who I am assuming will be getting the start in place of Nagbe, will not be able to replace the poise and experience Nagbe brings to the team. In Morris’ defense, he is a very young and talented player, but there are very few MLS players who can control a match like Nagbe.

The one wild card that Caleb Porter holds in his hand is the element of surprise. Has he had enough time this week to shift his game plan enough to catch Seattle by surprise? Unfortunately, I do not think there was enough time. I expect Seattle to get a comfortable lead and Columbus to get one back late but never really threaten to steal the win. The Crew faithful will end the season with a bit of deja vu of 2015 but should feel confident knowing that their club is already ahead of schedule for 2021.

Seattle Sounders 2 Columbus Crew 1

Andrew Atkins

Just when it seemed safe to start building confidence that Crew could really pull this thing off, news broke that Darlington Nagbe and Pedro Santos would miss the MLS Cup Final.

That being said, Columbus wouldn’t be here Saturday if the club couldn’t overcome adversity by relying on its depth. I refuse to believe this poetic send-off in the final postseason match ever played in MAPFRE Stadium is going to be sullied.
Columbus Crew SC 2 Seattle Sounders FC 1

Adam Miller

MLS Cup 2020 concludes one of the most up and down, tipsy turvy years in league history. As the Black & Gold face Seattle without Darlington Nagbe and Pedro Santos, you can be sure that this game won’t be unpredictable. The ever pragmatic Caleb Porter and staff will look to let Seattle have the ball and catch them on the break with Lucas Zelarayan, Gyasi Zardes and the pace of Luis Diaz and Derrick Etienne Jr.

Call me a hopeless romantic but there’s no way the Crew loses this game. It may not be pretty and it certainly won’t be easy, but David always beats Goliath and the Crew rarely loses at home. Get ready to party Columbus.
Columbus Crew 1 Seattle Sounders 0

Guilherme Torres

As like all of you, I was more confident about Crew’s chances before the new of Darlington Nagbe and Pedro Santos not being able to play. Their absences will be a big blow to the Black & Gold as they face the defending champions and it’s unlikely they will get similar production for whoever Caleb Porter picks to replace them in the starting lineup. Columbus’ big names will have to produce and they showed they can do it repeatedly in the playoffs, so I’m still picking the Crew to lift the trophy here, but only after a dramatic penalty kick shutout.
Columbus Crew 1 Seattle Sounders 1 (Crew wins in penalty kicks)

Tyler Fisher

It’s been a while since I’ve done one of these, so hello fellow readers!

Listen, it’s not the end of the world, okay? Sure the Crew is missing two key players but has a strong core of guys coming back in Aidan Morris, Sebastian Berhalter, Eloy Room, Derrick Etienne Jr., Youness Mokhtar and Chris Cadden. Not to mention Columbus still has Luis Diaz, Lucas Zelarayan, Gyas Zardes and a strong core in the defense. Don’t hit the panic button!

Seattle has had one less day of rest and a travel day since their Western Conference championship game on Monday. Columbus is at home. In front of a potential “sell out” crowd of 1,500 fans. As Jonathan Mensah said earlier in the week “After Saturday we’re going to be the last team standing.” Have faith in the squad, and be prepared to celebrate a second MLS Cup in franchise history!
Columbus Crew SC 3 Seattle Sounders 1 (ET)

Patrick Guldan

This should be an evenly matched game against two teams with a distinct style. It should be a matchup of dynamic attackers and stalwart defenses. It should be a great final. However, the loss of Pedro Santos and Darlington Nagbe looms large over the game and likely tips the balance towards the visiting Sounders.

Porter stated that he intends to attack and the Crew will keep their game plan. They will take the game to the Sounders but the attack will be. The loss of Nagbe and Santos will be felt as the replacements at each position can’t do what they did with the ball. Additionally, the team will struggle to replace their contributions on defense. Nagbe is an excellent disrupter. While there aren’t a lot of better defensive wingers in the league.

So the Crew’s attack will be blunted - more falls on Lucas Zelarayan to create magic against a likely compact Seattle defense. The danger is when the Sounders look to strike, without Santos or Nagbe, that defense isn’t quite a stout. The Sounders will find it easier to transition from defense to attack. They will get more of those half chances. It sizes up to a Sounders win.
Seattle Sounders 2 Columbus Crew 1

Give us your prediction to the MLS Cup Final below in the comment section.