“Impossible is an opinion”: Columbus Crew are MLS Cup Winners Once Again, Conquering LAFC 2-1 at Lower.com Field

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Columbus Crew have done it again, winning its third MLS Cup in its fourth ever Final appearance, giving this Columbus fairytale a top notch ending!

“Impossible is an opinion. Just enjoy it” was the message that was given by Columbus’ head coach Wilfried Nancy minutes before kickoff. He made sure to tell his men to enjoy every second of the game and to play loose and calm.

And they did just that! The Crew, in just their first season under the Frenchman manager, defeated the 2022 reigning MLS Cup Champs, LAFC, 2-1 in front of a record breaking crowd of 20,802 fans at Lower.com Field.

This 28th edition of the MLS Cup Final featured goals from MLS Cup 2023 MVP Cucho Hernández, who was also named to the 2023 MLS Best XI this season, and Yaw Yeboah, who sealed the deal and gave The Crew a cushion to absorb LAFC’s and 2023 MLS Golden Boot Winner Dénis Bouanga second half goal.

Columbus’ Goalscorers

Nancy’s men entered Saturday’s raining match with the upper hand, playing at home in front of a raucous Columbus fan base at Lower.com Field. So just imagine the uproar and atmosphere when the Colombian Hernández opened the scoring in the 33rd minute!

The goal came from the 12-yard spot, where Hernández stepped up and made the LAFC goalkeeper guess the wrong way, blasting his penalty towards the bottom left corner. The goal was his sixth made penalty of the year and his fifth goal of the postseason campaign, making him the top postseason goal scorer of the year.

Despite just scoring once during the game, the forward continued to be a constant threat towards the visiting team’s backline in his 85 minutes of play, creating danger from all over while averaging an expected goals rate of 0.93 and registering two key passes.

Four minutes later, Columbus would strike again! This time it was midfielder Yaw Yeboah who increased the lead to two with a low grounded shot that passed just under the keeper’s hands and into the back of the net.

The Crew’s momentum would then continue as they kept pushing for more with another chance from Yeboah, who saw his ball get cleared just before the goal line by LAFC defender Diego Palacios.

LAFC’s Goalscorer

Columbus’ two-goal lead would then get shortened in the 74th minute with Bouanga scoring off a rebound shot towards goal. The goal marked his fifth of the postseason campaign as well, tying with Hernández as the top postseason goal scorer of the year.

The 2-1 scoreline would then remain the same for the last 15 minutes of the match, giving the Ohio-based team the victory and a night to remember.

The Crew’s Capitán

Darlington Nagbe, with Saturday’s victory against LAFC, has now won four MLS Cups (One with the Portland Timbers in 2015, one with Atlanta United in 2018 and two with Columbus Crew in 2020 and 2023) – becoming the 10th player in MLS history to do so.

“Two in four years, that’s special,” expressed Nagbe. 

During the Final, Nagbe went on to put up good numbers in the midfield, registering a pass completion rate of 96.3% (52 of 54 passes) while winning seven duels, drawing six fouls and dishing out two key passes. Like always, the 32-year-old was extremely comfortable with the ball at his feet, making the right decisions and controlling the game’s tempo.

Youngest-Ever Goalkeeper to Win an MLS Cup

Columbus Crew 2 graduate and current first choice keeper for the First Team Patrick Schulte became the youngest goalkeeper ever to start and win an MLS Cup.

Prior to this historic moment, Schulte also won silverware in 2022 after defeating St. Louis CITY 2 4-1 in the MLS NEXT Pro Cup Final, winning Crew 2’s first ever Cup. In addition, the 22-year-old earned MLS NEXT Pro’s Goalkeeper of the Year and Best XI honors that year.

“It’s been a crazy roller coaster over the last two years,” said Schulte. “…to feel the excitement and the joy of last year, winning the first-ever MLS NEXT Pro Cup… to calling myself an MLS Cup Champion after year two is truly something that I won’t take for granted and I will definitely have this memory forever.” 

What’s Next for Chiellini and Vela?

What’s next for Chiellini? Well, Saturday’s game might have been the end for Chiellini’s MLS career as he stated after the match that it could be his last game.

The Italian center back played just two seasons with LAFC, first signing with the team in 2022 in order to improve the Club’s backline and defensive IQ. And to be honest, he did just that, helping LAFC finish third with the best defensive stats in the league in 2022 and fourth in 2023. He definitely made his mark within the team as well as helped them win its first ever MLS Cup trophy last year against Philadelphia Union.

What’s next for Carlos Vela? At the moment, no one knows. His contract expires at the end of this year and the 34-year-old has already stated that he wants to continue playing. To remain with the Los Angeles-based team will likely mean he’d have to lose his designated player tag. But if both sides agree on parting ways, Vela’s future will most likely be away from the MLS. 

“Honestly I’m thinking about it. I’ve always been clear about that,” said Vela. “I know it’s coming soon. I want to end (my career) well… and don’t want to be let go because I can’t play anymore.”

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