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Crew Stadium Moment No. 4: 2008 Eastern Conference Final

The Black & Gold secured their first MLS Cup title berth in front of the home fans.

Sam Fahmi | Massive Report

After taking a pause on our list of most memorable moments in Crew Stadium history, due to the start of the 2021 season, we pick up where we left off in the Massive Report countdown in the week leading up to the final game at historic Crew Stadium. Join the discussion on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram using the hashtag #MRStadium.

For 13 seasons, the Columbus Crew battled in Major League Soccer, looking for a chance at the team’s first league trophy. After close calls and disappointments, the Crew finally got over the hump on Nov. 13, 2008, defeating longtime rivals the Chicago Fire 2-1 in the Eastern Conference Final at Crew Stadium to book a first-ever spot in the MLS Cup Final.

This triumph came after a 30-game regular season that saw the Black & Gold finish with a 17-7-6 mark, the best record in MLS that year, and lifting the Supporters’ Shield for the second time in club history. After beating the Kansas City Wizards 3-1 on aggregate, Columbus booked its spot in the conference final against Chicago, who finished second in the East that year.

Led by former Crew legend Brian McBride, who returned to MLS in 2008 after four seasons in England, and Mexican star Cuauhtémoc Blanco, the Fire came into a packed Crew Stadium on a chilly Columbus night looking for the upset.

Chicago controlled the game early, coming out on the attacking foot in the opening 10 minutes. It did not take long, however, for the Black & Gold to settle into their game, led by 2008 MLS MVP Guillermo Barros Schelotto.

The first real opportunity for either time came in the 21st minute when Columbus’ playmaker intercepted a pass out of the back and fired a half-volley shot from long range on target. While the effort did not require former Crew goalkeeper Jon Busch to move much to make the save, it was a sign of intent from Schelotto.

Five minutes later, it was Schelotto again nearly putting the Black & Gold in the lead. Taking a pass from winger Eddie Gaven, the Argentine let fly from the top of the penalty area, skimming the top of Busch’s crossbar.

In the 29th minute, McBride gave the Fire the first half lead. After being the reason for cheers for so long in Columbus, McBride’s flicked header — out-jumping Danny O’Rourke to put the ball over the out-stretched arm of goalkeeper William Hesmer — silenced the ruckus Crew faithful and sent the visiting Chicago fans tucked into the south end of the stadium into a frenzy.

This did not quiet the boos for McBride from the Nordecke on the striker’s every touch or the chants of “traitor.” In fact, McBride’s goal and typical celebration only intensified the venom that came his way throughout the match.

Just after halftime, the Black & Gold pulled level and Chad Marshall gave the Columbus fans a feeling of redemption. The MLS Defender of the Year rose over McBride to head a Schelotto free kick into the net to tie the game at one in the 49th minute.

Crew defender Chad Marshall ties the game at 1-1 over Fire forward Brian McBride.
Sam Fahmi - Massive Report

With Crew Stadium rocking again, it didn’t take long for the Crew to take the lead. Showing off their aerial ability, Columbus attackers Schelotto and Alejandro Moreno played a give-and-go with headed efforts before Moreno headed a ball in behind the Chicago defense. Gaven rushed into the penalty area, settled the bouncing ball with his left foot before dispatching a right-footed shot beyond Busch for the 2-1 lead.

The entire Columbus group ran toward the Nordecke to celebrate Gaven’s finish, but it would not be the final celebration on the night.

Now trailing, the Fire began to push numbers forward, putting one of MLS’s best defenses that year under pressure. As was the case throughout much of the season, however, the Black & Gold stayed calm defensively with Hesmer making saves when called upon, including a blast from outside the penalty with mere minutes left to go that the goalkeeper gobbled up with traffic in his six-yard box.

After three minutes and 14 seconds of stoppage time, the final whistle rang out and there was pandemonium on the Crew Stadium and field and in the stands as Columbus headed to its first MLS Cup Final. After celebrations on the stage at midfield, which included the presentation of the Eastern Conference trophy, the Crew players and coaches again crowded in front of the Nordecke to dance and sing with the team’s most faithful supporters.

The Black & Gold went to Los Angeles and defeated the New York Red Bulls 3-1 in the MLS Cup Final 10 days later. While the celebrations at the Home Depot Center, and after, were great, there is no greater feeling than being able to lift a trophy in front of a team’s home fans, and that’s what the Crew did by beating the Fire on that cold November night.

Read Massive Report’s previous Crew Stadium Moments

No. 5: Dos a Cero 2013

No. 6: Dos A Cero 2009

No. 7: 2017 Halloween playoff win over NYCFC

No. 8: 2003 Women’s World Cup

No. 9: The Legends Game

No. 10: Landon Donovan, Earthquakes win first MLS Cup

No. 11: The 2002 U.S. Open Cup championship

No. 12: Wil Trapp’s miracle game winner

No. 13: The scoreboard fire

No. 14: 2005 MLS All-Star Game

No. 15: The first game after Kirk Urso’s passing