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The Crew miss out on MLS Cup playoffs despite 2-0 win vs. Chicago Fire

The Black & Gold’s 2021 MLS Cup title defense is officially over.

Sam Fahmi - Massive Report

The 2021 season is over for the Columbus Crew. The defending MLS Cup champions concluded the campaign with a 2-0 victory against the Chicago Fire on MLS’s Decision Day with goals from Lucas Zelarayan and Miguel Berry. Despite the three points, other results didn’t go in the Black & Gold’s favor to pull off a miraculous lift into the MLS Cup playoffs. The Crew finish the 2021 season in ninth place in the Eastern Conference.

Columbus started the first half rather slowly but began to settle into the all-out attack mindset in the middle portion of the first half. The Black & Gold opened the scoring in the 30th minute as Zelarayan scored his 12th goal of the 2021 season.

The Armenian midfielder received a pass from winger Derrick Etienne Jr. near the penalty box. Zelarayan then dribbled around two Chicago defenders and unleashed a low-driven shot into the far corner to give the Black & Gold a 1-0 lead. The first half concluded with a 1-0 scoreline after a 13-shot effort by the Crew.

Despite leading at the break, the halftime scores around MLS didn’t help Columbus. D.C. United led Toronto 3-1 with two goals by Ola Kamara while Nashville SC was level with the New York Red Bulls 1-1 after a Hany Mukhtar free kick.

The second half had a strange sequence in the 58th minute that led to the Black & Gold’s second goal. Berry was on a clean breakaway and had an initial shot saved by Fire goalkeeper Gabriel Slonina. Berry then got the rebound and had his shot blocked off the line. Upon video assistant referee review, officials ruled two minutes later the ball crossed the line and counted Berry’s eighth goal of the season to double the Crew’s lead.

Columbus continued an aggressive push for more goals but was unable to get that third one in the team’s last game of the season. The Black & Gold ended the 2021 season with three consecutive victories, its second such streak of the campaign.

Zelarayan and Berry close out career seasons

The two goal scorers in the Crew’s final game of the regular season were among the brightest spots in a disappointing MLS campaign. The club gives out awards to its players every year and no doubt Lucas Zelarayan is the favorite for the Most Valuable Player.

The club’s record signing was immense for the Black & Gold in his second season as he ended 2021 with 12 goals and four assists, both top marks for the team. Columbus faithful will want nothing more than to see more Zelarayan in 2022 after an MVP-caliber season.

With that said, the breakout star of the season was Miguel Berry. The 24-year-old striker burst onto the scene with a strong eight-goal campaign. It’s no surprise that Berry’s strong 2021 no doubt makes him the natural second striker behind starter Gyasi Zardes in 2022.

Eastern Conference bracket is set

Decision Day had plenty of goals in the eastern part of North America. With the Crew out of the MLS Cup playoff picture, the league will have a new champion in 2021.

The New England Revolution will enter the MLS Cup playoffs as the top seed with a first-round bye and the Supporters’ Shield. The Revs will face the winner of the first-round match between New York City FC and Atlanta United. The other Eastern Conference first-round matches will be the Philadelphia Union hosting the New York Red Bulls and Nashville SC hosting Orlando City SC.

What’s Next

The Crew conclude its 2021 season with a ninth-place finish in the Eastern Conference, a Campeones Cup title and a quarterfinal appearance in the CONCACAF Champions League. The Black & Gold will now enter the offseason looking to make roster adjustments for the 2022 season.

Crew soccer will return in February 2022 when the next Major League Soccer season begins.