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The Crew win the 2020 MLS Cup

The Black & Gold are the best team in MLS again!

The Crew is the 2020 MLS Cup champions. The Black & Gold rode first-half goals from Lucas Zelarayan and Derrick Etienne Jr. and a second banger from the Argentinean to hoist the Cup. Columbus, the best team in MLS for much of the 2020 regular season, takes home the team’s second MLS Cup with the 3-0 win.

Neither team looked completely comfortable in the opening minutes as the sides settled into the game. Jonathan Mensah had an early attempt, but the steadfast Seattle defense blocked the shot.

It was the shorthanded Crew that pushed forward first. More comfortable with the ball throughout the season, the home side came up with a couple of early chances and nearly struck first after some sustained pressure in the 17th minute. A Zelarayan corner kick was cleared but rookie Aidan Morris attempted to send in a quick cross, but it was blocked. Forward Gyasi Zardes hammered at the loose ball but Sounders goalkeeper Stefan Frei was equal to the shot.

The Crew broke through less than 10 minutes later. With the team in transition, right back Harrison Afful bent in an early cross to the far side of the Seattle pealty box. Zelarayan met the ball and put a shot just under a diving Frei. The ball trickled over the line and gave the Black & Gold a 1-0 lead in the 25th minute.

Columbus doubled the lead in the 31st minute as the Crew broke quickly in transition again. Morris started the move with a ball out wide to Afful. The right back moved the ball centrally, but his cross was cut out. The deflection fell to Zelarayan who deftly shook past the Sounders defense and slipped a pass wide to Etienne. The winger buried the wide open look to make it 2-0.

Trailing, the Sounders were forced to push into the attack. They held on to the ball but failed to make use of it. With the lead, the Crew pulled back rather than letting the game open up. The visitors couldn’t find any cracks, only having a Nouhou Tolo shot from 25 yards that went well off target and nearly landed in the south stands before halftime.

Looking to change the game, the Sounders made a halftime double substitution, bringing in Gustav Svensson and Brad Smith to shore up the defense and give the attack a boost. It nearly paid off immediately as the away side got on the board within minutes of the start of the second half. Afful almost redirected a Cristian Roldan cross into the net, but it drifted inches past the post in the 47th minute.

The Seattle chances kept coming as the visitors tried to claw back into the game. Roldan had a shot from distance that forced an Eloy Room save a minute later. Raúl Ruidíaz’s 50th minute shot was blocked and Roldan’s 51st minute header blazed over the bar.

The Sounders launched four shots in the five minutes after halftime. The Crew struggled to break out of their end during the surge.

Columbus withstood the Sounders without giving up a goal and found a couple of counter attacking chances. Artur’s close-range shot was well saved by Frei in the 60th minute while Luis Diaz’s tight angle shot a minute later blazed past the post.

The teams continued to trade punches with the Sounders coming within a couple inches from getting one back in the 71st minute as Nicolás Lodeiro poked a shot in the box just wide. Room came up with a big stop on a Ruidiaz header in the 80th minute to keep Seattle off the board.

Columbus put the game to bed in the 82nd minute as the counter-punched against another Seattle attack. Zelarayan got free on the counter at the top of the Sounders box and bent a shot in the top corner past Frei to make it 3-0.

Seattle continued to push but only forced one save of Room in the final minutes before the final whistle blew declaring the Crew MLS Cup champions.

Lucas Zelarayan - MVP

The Crew needed something special from their record signing. Zelarayan delivered. He scored twice, added an assist and had seven key passes. He was a menace all over the field and Seattle could do nothing to stop him.

Leading up to the game, the talk was about Lodeiro and Ruidiaz, but it was the Crew’s playmaker that carried the offensive load and firmly established himself in team lore, like another Argentine playmaking champion.

Homegrown hero

The loss of Darlington Nagbe was big, there’s no doubt he is a top-class player and key to how the Crew plays. Caleb Porter didn’t try to replace him, he changed the plan. Morris, signed in the offseason on a Homegrown deal, became the youngest starter in MLS Cup Final history. He made an impact on both sides of the ball.

What’s Next

Plan the socially distant parade and pictures with the MLS Cup. The Crew brought a championship to Columbus and it’s time to celebrate before the hard work of doing it again starts in earnest.