Columbus Crew scores three goals to win MLS Cup

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COLUMBUS, Ohio – Lucas Zelarayán scored midway through the first half and added the tire in the 82nd minute and the Columbus Crew won their second MLS Cup title, beating defending champions Seattle Sounders 3-0 on Saturday night. .
Derrick Etienne Jr. also scored in the opening 45 minutes for Columbus. The crew withstood pressure from Seattle in the second half and finally celebrated after Zelarayán’s goal.

Zelarayán, the MLS newcomer of the year and the biggest signing in franchise history, was the best player on the pitch on a night the Crew played shorthanded. Columbus was without midfielders Darlington Nagbe and Pedro Santos after both testing positive for COVID-19 this week.

Despite the absences, the crew were decidedly the best team and Zelarayán was the instigator. Columbus won his first title since 2008 and denied Seattle a chance to be just the fourth consecutive champion in league history. The Sounders, who were playing their fourth final in five years, were looking to be the first recurring champions since the LA Galaxy in 2011-12.

It was the first final appearance for Columbus since 2015 when the crew were denied a title by the Portland Timbers and current Columbus coach Caleb Porter. The franchise almost relocated just a few years ago, but efforts to keep the team in Columbus have been successful and there is now a championship to celebrate.

The loss of Nagbe and Santos seemed to be the biggest story of the final. It was the first time this season that Columbus had played without any players in his lineup.

But their teammates – namely Zelarayán – have made their absences questionable.

Zelarayán scored in the 25th minute thanks to a perfect lead from Harrison Afful, slipping past Seattle fullback Alex Roldan and snaking his left-footed volley past goalkeeper Stefan Frei. Six minutes later, Zelarayán made the smart play in finding Etienne and his curling shot gave Columbus a 2-0 lead. Etienne started in place of Santos.

And Zelarayán was patient before throwing a left-footed shot past Frei for the final goal. Zelarayán was the third player in an MLS Cup final with two goals and the first since Alecko Eskandarian in 2004.

Seattle needed a frenzied comeback in the final 15 minutes of their Western Conference final against Minnesota United just to reach the MLS Cup. Down 2-0 against Minnesota, the Sounders have scored three times, including the winner Gustav Svensson in the stoppage time on a corner kick.

The deficit was the same for most of the second half against Columbus, but the magic of Seattle’s comeback just five days earlier was absent. The Sounders had plenty of chances in the second half, but attempts failed to find the net. Nicolas Lodeiro’s shot in traffic in the 71st minute sank in the distance. Three minutes later, Svensson’s header from a corner kick failed to find the target.

Jordan Morris had the last good look for Seattle in the 80th minute, but his header was saved by Eloy Room.

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