The celebration has been the catharsis that Columbus Crew fans have dreamed of since 2017, when the former team owner threatened to move his team to Texas. This has been the party they have been craving since 2018, when their campaign to stop it resulted in new owners and new hope. It was the dream they had this year when the Coronavirus caused chaos in the schedule and shut them off their court.
So once the party finally kicked in, once the final whistle kicked off the crew’s 3–0 victory over Seattle Sounders at Mapfrey Stadium in Columbus and Columbus won their second League title, the only grief seemed to be that more crew fans were not there to see it in person.
“When I took the job, I had a dream of taking the MLS Cup to those fans out there,” said Crew coach Caleb Porter, who roamed the field and thanked the nearly 1,500 social fans present even before his team took the silver medal. booty. “That’s why I was so emotional.”
Porter had banned those fans from celebrating five years earlier when, as a coach for Portland Timbers, he beat the crew at Mapfrey Stadium to win his MLS Cup. When he was hired by The Crew in January 2019, just months after the city’s successful campaign to save the team, he pledged to give the Columbus fans something to cheer once more.
On Saturday, those who were allowed in – instructing health officials and stadium signs to stay masked and safely away for the entire 90 minutes – showered Porter with thanks. The hugs will come later, when that kind of thing is safe again.
The 25th NFL Season Final event has ever been, in many respects, a victory in itself. The season kicked off on February 29, its first start in league history, and concluded with the most recent MLS Cup ever. Between them was a year unlike any other: two weeks of matches and then a four-month hiatus due to the pandemic; Five-week summer tournament; Then weeks of anxiety return to empty – or nearly – empty pitches.
Along the way, the league has conducted more than 130,000 virus tests, with about 20 percent of its players reporting positive results, he said Official in the players union. Dozens of games have been postponed, rescheduled, or not played at all. To reach the end of the season, the league has repeatedly amended its health protocols, amending its rules and bypassing its collective fingers.
But even the final match was not immune. Columbus’ title hopes took a big hit on Friday when the team’s most important player, Darlington Nagbe, and key member of his attack, Pedro Santos, was excluded from the final on medical grounds. Both Najbi And the Santos Later they confirmed the league’s worst fear: that they too had tested positive for the Coronavirus.
“It’s a big loss; on Friday, Porter said, it’s a big hit. But he expressed confidence in his players’ ability to adapt, and his team took the match to Saunders from the opening whistle.”
The first goal came in the 25th minute: a cross pass driven from the right by Gacy Zards, and a strong one-off finish in the back post by Lucas Zillarayan, an Argentine midfielder who knocked out of the first Mexican league last winter, and – despite that small size – a dangerous presence Throughout the first half.
Six minutes later, the score was 2-0, after Zillarian fed open-ended Derek Etienne Jr. – Santos’ substitute in the starting lineup – on the left side of the penalty area. Etienne slipped behind his defender and curled a right-footed curled around Seattle goalkeeper Stephan Fry.
Seattle tried the adjustment, making two substitutions in the first half, but by then momentum was up – or was it fate? – It was too much to overcome. Zillarayan’s second and third goal for Columbus in the 82nd minute removed all doubt. Saunders, who had qualified for the finals for the fourth time in five years, and pursued their second consecutive title, did not stand a chance.
“This was our day,” Porter said. “Our time, our day, and our cup.”
Next season is set to start in March. But in a half-time interview Saturday night, Commissioner Don Garber said the ongoing pandemic meant he could not guarantee it.
The crew, for now at least, is okay to wait. The title is theirs again at last, and they are more than happy to stick with it as long as they can.