The Columbus Crew are the 2020 MLS Cup winners. With outstanding performance, the Black & Gold completely dominated defending champions, Seattle Sounders, to a 3-0 victory in the last playoff match played at MAPFRE Stadium.
The Crew entered the match without key starters in Darlington Nagbe and Pedro Santos, but counted on solid performances from their replacements Aidan Morris and Derrick Etienne Jr. and an absolutely fantastic showing by Designated Player Lucas Zelarayan to secure the second title in club history.
Here’s how each Crew player performed in the historical match:
Eloy Room (9) – The starting goalkeeper returned to his spot between the posts after missing the last two matches and, even if Andrew Tarbell did a great job while he was out, it was clear that his presence brings extra confidence for the team. As the Crew managed to keep Seattle’s offense under control for most of the time and some of their most dangerous attemps went off target, the goalkeeper registered only two saves, but one of them was a huge one on a Jordan Morris’ header in the 80th minute.
Harrison Afful (9) – The veteran right back showed why he’s still one of the best fullbacks in MLS with a fantastic far post cross to Zelarayan to score Columbus’ first goal in the match. He was also involved in the second goal and did exceptionally well on defense, especially in the second half, when the Sounders pushed forward, ending the match with a team-high four interceptions and three clearances.
Jonathan Mensah © (9) – The captain played a flawless match. With the Crew playing more direct than usual, he didn’t have to pass the ball around as much and was a beast in the air, registering impressive seven clearances, most of them during the second half, when the Sounders crossed several balls into the Crew’s penalty box.
Josh Williams (8) – The veteran was steady all night, comfortably winning his individual battle with the always dangerous Raul Ruidiaz. He had just two interceptions during the match, but one of them was a crucial one as it prevented the ball from getting to Will Bruin inside the penalty box near the end of the match.
Milton Valenzuela (9) – The left back was a rock on defense, completely dominating his side of the field, even when the dangerous Nicolas Lodeiro roamed there, and was really smart with his passes on offense. The Argentinean had by far his best performance since he returned from last year’s season-ending knee injury.
Aidan Morris (9) – The rookie got the third start of his career in the big stage of an MLS Cup Final, being the youngest player to ever start in a final, and played an outstanding match, pairing up with Artur to take control of the midfield. The 19-year-old certainly didn’t feel the pressure of the match and completely shut down Sounders’ star, Lodeiro. He ended the match with a team-high four tackles and one of them started the play that generated the Crew’s second goal.
Artur (8) – Without Nagbe by his side and the Crew playing more directly, the Brazilian was less involved in the game but did a great job in protecting the team’s backline with three tackles and two interceptions and passing the ball with a 78.3 efficiency rating. He had a couple of opportunities to score inside the penalty box, but couldn’t take advantage of them.
Luis Diaz (9) – The Costa Rican absolutely torched whoever tried to defend him on the right side of Crew’s offense. His runs and combination plays with Afful were among Columbus’ best offensive alternatives in the first half. During the second half, when Seattle took more control of the game, his runs on the counter were extremely valuable for the team’s defenders to catch their breath. His assist in Zelarayan’s second goal is a great example of his evolution as a player as, unlike several occasions in the past, he made the right decision and waited for the exact perfect moment to pass the ball.
Lucas Zelarayan (10) – The Designated Player rose up to the occasion and played a phenomenal match against the Sounders, scoring a brace and showing great vision to assist Etienne on the second, producing one of the best-ever individual performances in an MLS Cup Final. Even before the goals were scored, he was instrumental to the Crew, coordinating the team’s offense in fantastic fashion, and also registered four tackles. The Argentinean capped off what was a very positive first season in Columbus with his best match for the Crew.
Derrick Etienne Jr. (9) – The winger was chosen by Porter to replace Pedro Santos and returned to the field after sitting out of the last two Crew matches in great fashion by scoring an important goal that gave Columbus a two-goal lead before halftime. He did a good job on the defensive side of the ball for as long as his fitness allowed him to. From starting the season as a trialist to ending it with a goal in the MLS Cup Final it was a long way for Etienne.
Gyasi Zardes (8.5) – The striker didn’t have a lot of chances to score and saw his best one, early in the match, be denied by a fantastic save by Stefan Frei. Zardes’ offensive impact was noticed on the team’s first goal, when his movement generated space behind his back for Zelarayan to score the first goal. His defensive work was outstanding, both when pressing up top and helping on set pieces – he had impressive seven clearances.
Hector Jimenez (N/A) – The versatile player entered the match with eight minutes to go and helped to defend the left side of Crew’s defense. It was nice to see a player with such a long history in the club on the field in such an important match.
Fatai Alashe (N/A) – The veteran midfielder replaced Artur for the final three minutes.
Waylon Francis (N/A) – The left back played in the final minutes of the match replacing Luis Diaz.
Caleb Porter (9) – The head coach had a daunting task on his hand and guided his team to a great response, surprising many experts who had the Sounders as clear favorites. Winning an MLS Cup Final against such a strong team with two of Columbus’ most important players is a remarkable feat and doing so while sending a 19-year-old player with only two starts in his career to the field required a lot of trust and courage for him. His game plan was executed to perfection and he counted on an outstanding performance from his best player to secure a sound win against the, now, former champions.
Who Was the Crew's Man of the Man at the MLS Cup Final against the Seattle Sounders?
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