The celebration was the catharsis Columbus team fans had dreamed of since 2017 when the staff’s former proprietor had threatened to move their team to Texas. It was the celebration they’d pined for since 2018 when their campaign to cease him had yielded new owners and new hope. It was the dream that sustained them this yr when the coronavirus played havoc with the schedule and locked them out of their stadium.
So once the party lastly began, once the final whistle had blown on the Crew’s 3-0 victory over the Seattle Sounders at Columbus’s Mapfre Stadium and Columbus had won its second league title, the one disappointment, it appeared, was that more Crew followers were not there to see it in person.
“After I took the job, I had a dream to take M.L.S. Cup to these fans over there” mentioned Crew Coach Caleb Porter, who circled the field thanking the roughly 1,500 socially distanced supporters in attendance even earlier than his team had been handed its silver trophy. “That’s why I was so emotional.”
Porter had denied these followers simply such a celebration 5 years in the past when, as coach of the Portland Timbers, he beat the Crew at Mapfre Stadium to win his personal M.L.S. Cup. When he was employed by the Crew in January 2019, solely months after the city’s successful campaign to save lots of the team, he
On Saturday, those that had been allowed inside — the place they have been instructed by health officers and stadium signs to remain masked and safely distant for all 90 minutes — showered Porter with thanks. The hugs will come later when that sort of factor is protected once more.
That the ultimate of M.L.S.’s twenty-fifth season occurred in any respect was, in lots of respects, a triumph in itself. The season had begun on Feb. 29, the earliest begin in league historical past, and concluded with the newest M.L.S. Cup ever played. In between was a yr like no different: two weeks of matches after which a four-month hiatus due to the pandemic; a five-week summer season match; after which weeks of cautious returns to empty — or near-empty — stadiums.
Alongside the way in which, the league conducted greater than 130,000 virus assessments, with about 20 % of its gamers recording positive results, based on a players’ union official. Dozens of games were postponed, rescheduled, or simply not performed in any respect. To get to the end of the season, the league repeatedly tweaked its health protocols, adjusted its rules, and crossed its collective fingers.
Not even the ultimate was immune, although. Columbus’s title hopes have been dealt a major blow on Friday when the team’s most necessary participant, midfielder Darlington Nagbe, and a key member of its assault, Pedro Santos, have been ruled out of the ultimate for medical causes. Each Nagbe and Santos later confirmed the league’s worst concern: that they, too, had tested positive for the coronavirus.
“It’s a giant loss; it’s a giant blow,” Porter had stated Friday. But he expressed confidence that his gamers may regulate, and his team took the sport to the Sounders from the opening whistle.
The primary aim got here in the twenty-fifth minute: a driven cross from the fitting by Gyasi Zardes, and a strong one-timed end on the again publish by Lucas Zelarayán, an Argentine midfielder signed out of Mexico’s high league final winter, and — despite his diminutive size — a menacing presence all through the primary half.
Six minutes later, it was 2-0, after Zelarayán fed an open Derrick Etienne Jr. — Santos’s replacement within the beginning lineup — on the left facet of the penalty space. Slipping behind his defender, Etienne coolly curled a right-footed shot around Seattle goalkeeper, Stefan Frei.
Seattle tried to regulate, making two substitutions at halftime, however by then the momentum — or was it destiny? — was too much to beat. Zelarayán’s second aim, Columbus’s third, within the 82nd minute removed all doubt. The Sounders, finalists for the fourth time in 5 years, and in search of their second title in a row, by no means stood an opportunity.
“This was going to be our day,” Porter mentioned. “Our time, our day, and our trophy.”
The next season is scheduled to begin in March. But, in a halftime interview on Saturday night time, Commissioner Don Garber mentioned the ongoing pandemic meant that he couldn’t assure it.
The Crew, for now not less than, are high quality with waiting. The title is theirs once more finally, and they’re more than pleased to carry on to it as long as they will.