Columbus captures first MLS Cup
Led by league MVP Guillermo Barros Schelotto, the Columbus Crew showed why they were North America's top soccer team this season.
The Crew won their first ever MLS Cup championship Sunday with a convincing 3-1 victory over the New York Red Bulls in Carson, Calif.
Alejandro Moreno, Chad Marshall and Frankie Hejduk each scored to help finish off a stellar season for Columbus.
Schelotto set up all three Crew goals and was named the game's most valuable player.
"It's been a dream year," Hejduk told CBC Sports. "What a perfect ending."
Hejduk said he was also elated supporters of the team, which made the playoffs for the first time since 2004, can share in the celebration.
"[Fans] have kept soccer in America alive, and to wait so long for it … I'm sure they're happy."
Columbus initially struggled to find its way, allowing New York to grab the edge in play.
But the Crew — owners of the league's second-best offence with 50 goals — overcame their early sluggishness.
After enduring steady pressure from New York, Columbus rebounded with the match's first goal in the 31st minute following a turnover.
Moreno raced around Red Bulls defender Diego Jimenez, fired a shot off the arm of goalkeeper Danny Cepero that rolled into the back of the net.
Schelotto made the goal possible by keeping the ball in bounds before sending a long pass to Moreno. Kevin Goldthwaite had a glorious chance to put New York ahead prior to Moreno's goal, but his header bounced wide of the Columbus goal.
"The boys battled hard," said Hejduk. "[New York] got the better of us in the first half, but we were lucky to get the goal. We made the adjustments at halftime, and it helped us."
However, the Bulls regrouped to square the match in the 51st minute. Dane Richards slid a beautiful pass in the goal area to John Wolyniec, who redirected the ball past goalie William Hesmer.
It took Columbus less than a minute to regain its one-goal advantage while deflating the Bulls in the process. A charging Marshall converted a corner kick by Schelotto with a header that Cepero had no chance to save.
"We came back knowing we were going to score," explained Hejduk. "We've been doing it all year."
The Argentine didn't stop there as Schelotto chipped a pretty ball to Hejduk in the 82nd minute to put the game away.
"Luckily, I was able to put that third one away," said Hejduk.
The Red Bulls put forth an impressive effort despite finishing 18 points behind the Crew in the regular season. In the end, New York's spotty defence, which surrendered a whopping 48 goals this year, couldn't contain the Crew's offensive prowess.
"They attacked more than what we expected," said Moreno.
New York only qualified for the playoffs after Columbus defeated D.C. United 1-0 on the last day of the regular season, a result that gave the Red Bull the final wild card berth.