(Duplicate post of ProstAmerika article as is normal practice for when covering Sounders FC, although this was virtual coverage.)
Seattle Sounders FC 0
Columbus Crew SC 3
MLS Cup Final
December 12, 2020
MAPFRE Stadium – Columbus, OH
Columbus Crew SC hosted Seattle Sounders FC Saturday night in at MAPFRE Stadium in the 2020 MLS Cup Final.
The 2020 final is the third appearance for MLS founding club Columbus, having won the title in 2008. For Seattle, it is a chance at a repeat, a third title, in their fourth appearance over the past five seasons.
Subplots and history have dominated the conversations in recent days leading into the match. With Seattle at virtually full strength, the late pandemic related suspensions of top Columbus players is likely the subplot that had the most direct chance of affecting the match.
The two clubs have met in a final before, with the Sounders beating the Crew in the 2010 US Open Cup Final in Seattle. But, the history between the two clubs predates Seattle’s actual first match in MLS in 2009 with the drama over the departure of Sigi Scmid from the Crew to become the MLS Sounders’ first head coach. Schmid’s passing in 2018 adds an additional somber element as both clubs had great success with him at the helm. To have been able to have Sigi possibly in attendance at the match would have been a great moment for the clubs, supporters of both, and the league.
Crew coach Caleb Porter was at the helm of Portland Timbers when they defeated Columbus for the cup in 2015 in Columbus. Porter’s tense relationship with the Sounders through the Cascadia rivalry is apparently now in the past as Sounders coach Brian Schmetzer has commented about them attending licensing courses together. Supporters may still feel differently.
Columbus looked to close out MAPFRE Stadium on the highest of notes. A win would end their tenure in what has been possibly the most important building in US soccer history. Without the stadium, the trajectory of MLS would have been a different story as it proved the proper sized soccer specific stadium was essential to the league not merely surviving but thriving. With the numerous important matches played in the stadium, it is not hyperbole to state its importance.
The opening half was mostly Columbus on their front foot. Seattle keeper Stefan Frei was called on a number of times early, coming up big and keeping the match level. The Crew managed to put Seattle on the chase, creating chances, and only facing the counter on a handful of occasions. Seattle’s counter did get Jordan Morris forward down the left flank a few times, but the crosses didn’t lead to real chances on goal.
The constant pressure would pay off for the Crew. The initial goal would come mid-half. Lucas Zelarayán got a foot on a far post cross in the 25th minute and the home side was rewarded with a deserved goal and lead.
Derrick Etienne would make it two nil in the 31st. The Crew was really rolling at this point, dominating in possession and attack. Seattle needed to get their footing and press back to attempt to cut into the lead by the half, but were unable to. Heading into the interval the two goal margin was reflective of the way in which Columbus had controlled the match.
Seattle did not wait to make changes after the interval. Two changes and some urgency put Seattle in position to cut into the lead early in the second half. The early second half suddenly seemed to find Seattle able to get and do something with possession.
But, the change in game flow did not change the score line in the first part of the second half. Columbus weathered the storm in the early going, and despite the numerous Seattle chances, the half progressed with the same two goal margin. The Sounders had definitely found their footing in the match after the half, however, the goals remained elusive.
Given recent history and Seattle’s ability to score in short bursts, the notion that they could come back to bring it level was hardly out of the question. Seattle came close to scoring on a number of set pieces and sequences adding drama to the proceedings.
Lucas Zelarayán put an end to the come back storyline for Seattle. His left foot drive from the top of the box beat Frei in the 82nd minute and it was just a matter of playing out the match for Columbus to host the title for the second time.
Columbus had dominated the early going, but had also managed to finish. The long run of Seattle pressure in the second half had not paid off with goals.
Columbus is the 2020 MLS Cup champion, closing out the MAPFRE Stadium era with as much style as it deserved.