Columbus Crew earned its place in the finals of the Eastern Conference’s MLS Cup Playoffs. They defeated Nashville Soccer Club with 2-0, after a hard battle that saw extra-times. Gyasi Zardes’ excellent stretch in the first overtime was the difference-maker.
For Columbus, this is the first trip to the East Finals since 2017, and only the second in the last 12 years.
“I just can’t say enough about this group, how resilient they are, how they’re able to adapt, how they’re able to just keep focused. And I’ve never been more proud of a group,” Caleb Porter, Crew’s head coach, said following the event.
His team survived a pretty rough first half, with the guests from Nashville threatening twice. Goalkeeper Andrew Tarbell saved Columbus in the 24th minute, when Jhonder Cadiz tried his luck with a swift header. The post prevented the visitors from taking the lead three minutes afterward. Dax McCarty’s header finished on the construction, not in the back of the net, and the Crew remained untouched.
The balance of power changed in the latter 45 minutes, with the hosts waking up, providing several of their own opportunities. Zardes missed one in the 78th minute.
Yet, the member of the USA national team redeemed himself later. It was the 99th minute once he ran away on the left side, noticing Pedro Santos in front of the net before assisting the Argentinian. It was 1-0 for the home team, who finally found a way to break Nashville’s lock.
Zardes extended the guests’ shock just four minutes later. He led the counter-attack again, and executed the same, putting an end to this match. After this hit, there was no way for Nashville to come back.
“Stay positive, we look forward, nothing’s going to break us. We have goals set this year, and we’re just one step closer to achieving our goals,” Zardes stated.
— Major League Soccer (@MLS) November 30, 2020
Nashville’s players were disappointed with the outcome of today’s match but proud of what they’ve accomplished this season. Keeping in mind that SC exists for only three years, this is a major success for Music City boys.
“I think the way that the city of Nashville embraced us throughout our season is something that I’m so proud of, and I’m so thankful for a city and a club that really supports its players,” captain McCarty explained, adding that for one expansion team, the second round of the playoffs is an incredible success.
Their elimination of Toronto FC, the top-seeded team in the East, was the first-class sensation, and it put a spotlight on Nashville, reminding everyone that this side has enough quality to be competitive in the years to come.
On the other side, the Crew continues its quest for the first MLS Cup title after 2008, with their next opponent being the New England Revolution. The Revs bounced out Orlando City in the East semis, beating the rivals with 3-1 on the road. This match saw a penalty, a red card, lots of good chances, constant drama, everything one playoff event needs to offer.
In the end, the hosts were left empty-handed, even though they had a penalty to tie the score at 2-2. Portuguese superstar Nani missed it, and the shorthanded Orlando, who already had a player fewer on the field due to the red card, had no strength for coming back. The Revolution routinely closed this event.
The matchup between Columbus and New England is this Sunday.
Nikola Velickovic is a sports journalist who loves to write and read on all sports. Nikola contributes both news updates and functions as a sports breaking news writer at WagerBop.