Los Angeles (AFP) – Lucas Zelarayan scored twice as the Columbus Crew beat Seattle to win the 2020 MLS Cup on Saturday, denying the Sounders a second straight Major League Soccer crown.
Zelarayan, the Argentine midfielder who formerly starred for Tigres in Mexico, opened the scoring in the 25th minute and sealed the Crew’s second MLS Cup triumph in the 82nd at MAPFRE Stadium in Columbus, Ohio.
He set up Derrick Etienne’s 31st-minute strike on the way to Man of the Match honors.
With some 1,500 spectators in the stands amid continuing Covid-19 restrictions, the Crew shrugged off the absences of key contributors Darlington Nagbe and Pedro Santos — both ruled out after positive coronavirus tests.
“When you have a vision that’s strong, when you assign a value to a goal and you get a group of guys that buy into that, no one is going to stop us from getting there,” an emotional Crew coach Caleb Porter said after the club — a founding member of MLS — added a second MLS Cup to the one they captured in 2008.
Seattle, meanwhile, were denied a third MLS title in five years, unable to recover despite a determined second half.
Despite the body-blow of losing Nagbe and Santos, the Crew came out determined to take advantage of their home field advantage.
In the 17th minute, Columbus forward Gyasi Zardes had a clear first chance, his effort saved by Seattle’s Swiss keeper Stefan Frei.
The Crew seized the lead in the 25th Zelarayan firing a left-footed shot from near the back post past Frei after a deep cross from Harrison Afful.
Columbus doubled the advantage six minutes later when Haiti international Etienne curled in a right-footed shot after Zelarayan faked an attempt from the top of the box only and followed up with the pinpoint pass.
A Sounders side featuring three players in the MLS’s 2020 best XI — Jordan Morris, Uruguayan Nicolas Lodeiro and Peru’s Raul Ruidaz — couldn’t manufacture a shot on goal, and coach Brian Schmetzer brought in Sweden’s Gustav Svensson and Australian Brad Smith at half-time in hopes of turning things around.
“We needed to get out of our funk,” said Schmetzer. But there would be no miracle comeback like the one that saw the Sounders score three goals in the last 15 minutes in the Western Conference final against Minnesota.
Columbus managed to contain Morris and Ruidiaz, who showed their usual commitment but had no quality opportunities.
Lodeiro, a former Ajax and Boca Juniors player saw a shot in the 71st glance off the near post.
Zelarayan delivered the final dagger in the 82nd, firing a left-footed shot into the top corner after a deft pass from Colombian Luis Diaz.
The match capped a 25th MLS campaign upended by the coronavirus pandemic. Play was suspended between March and July, resuming with the MLS is Back tournament in a quarantine bubble in Orlando, Florida, that two teams had to withdraw from because of coronavirus cases.
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