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Americans at home: from saved to MLS Cup Champions - the Crew kept beating the odds

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A teenage American helped bring the Cup home

MLS: Cup Final-Seattle Sounders FC vs Columbus Crew SC Columbus Dispatch-USA TODAY NETWORK

The Columbus Crew easily dispatched the Seattle Sounders in a 3-0 win to take home their second MLS Cup. Seattle struggled in the game to do much of anything going forward and the Crew made effective use of their possession and had two goals by the 31st minute for their efforts. A third would be added in the 81st as the Sounders failed to find the comeback magic that carried them to the Cup by beating Minnesota 3-2 in the Conference Finals.

Obviously, the big story in the game was Lucas Zelarayan taking the game over and scoring two goals while assisting a third. It was a superb performance on the biggest stage possible and the Sounders never had an answer for the no. 10 through the entire match.

But, the Crew also served up a rebuttal to the story that was served up when Anthony Precourt wanted to move the team to Austin. Mostly that he couldn’t have a team in Austin if it was in Columbus, and that the team wasn’t in a viable market. MLS Comissioner Don Garber supported the move saying in 2017, “You have to be strong and viable with every team if you’re going to continue to grow. As hard as it is—and it’s not fun—and I will say I feel for the fans in that market, I am fully understanding of the challenges they see and how disappointed they are. But we need to find a way to ensure that team can be an MLS 2.0 team.”

Of course what happened next was that the team “rebuilt” after making the semi-finals in 2017 and sent key players Justin Meram and Ola Kamara out while replacing them with players like Gyasi Zardes.

Luckily, Dee and Jimmy Haslam stepped in, bought the team, and worked with the city to build a new stadium that will open next year. The team also got an injection of new talent with Darlington Nagbe and Zelarayan joining. With 2020 being a fairly challenging season, Columbus had a strong showing in the MLSisBACK tournament and looked unbeatable in the early going of the re-start of the regular season. A strong push in the playoffs saw them into the Cup and hoisting it by the end. Strong and viable.

Aside from the #SaveTheCrew saga, the turn around being capped off by an MLS Cup victory also seemed unlikely as the team suffered a Covid outbreak in the playoffs that saw Darlington Nagbe test positive and miss the final. Nagbe is a smooth passer who is nearly impossible to dispossess, it seemed like his absence would make it difficult for Columbus to keep the ball away from the strong Seattle attack.

In his place stepped 19 year-old American midfielder and Crew Homegrown Aiden Morris. The teenager was excellent in the match playing a defensive midfield role alongside Artur.

He even chipped in a hockey assist on the first goal for the Crew. It was quite the showing for the youngster and something for him to build on going into next year. Elsewhere for the Crew, Gyasi Zardes.... well, he missed a couple of sitters. Gyasi Zardes.

On the other side, the Americans for the Sounders had a tougher day at the office. Jordan Morris and Cristian Roldan went the full 90 with two shots each. While Morris had a legitimate shout for the 2020 MLS MVP award, he and the rest of the Seattle attack never really settled into the game and just created two shots on target. Meanwhile, Alex Roldan was outmatched as the Crew managed to work much of their attack against the American right back.

Despite the lopsided score, the game was a decent showing for the league with each team pushing forward trying to score the whole match. MLS Cup has a reputation of seeing one or both teams play a more cautious approach, but this one lived up to its potential as a showcase for the best teams in the post-season.