Columbus, the city of champions: The Crew win their second MLS championship since 2008
photo illustration: Emma Clute
In a season full of ups and downs for the Crew, it managed to win its first Major League Soccer Championship since 2008.
To get back to the top of the MLS, the Crew made some major moves in the 2019 offseason to prepare for this year’s season.
On Dec. 20, 2019, the Crew spent a record transfer fee of $7 million dollars for Argentinian Midfielder Lucas Zelarayan. Zelarayan managed to net an impressive 23 goals and 14 assists in his four seasons in Mexico’s Tier One League “Liga MX”.
The Crew was still not done making changes in the offseason though; they also signed Defensive Midfielder Darlington Nagbe from Atlanta United for a $1.05 million transfer fee. In addition to these star veteran players, the Crew signed some players from their homegrown academy teams, like 19-year-old Aidan Morris from their academy and Olentangy Orange alumnus Sebastian Berhalter.
“Zelarayan is honestly the Crew’s savior. The entire midfield was starting to decline rapidly after key players like Federico Higuaín and Wil Trapp left the team but now with Zelarayan on the team, he brings so much talent and world class skill that we haven’t seen in years,” sophomore Camden Deshazer said. “With a player like him coming to Columbus, it brings so much excitement to the city knowing we have a generational player like him on our team. He will bring more people to the games just to watch him go to work on the field.”
With all of these new exciting players coming in, fans in Columbus were getting excited for the start of the MLS season and could not wait to see what the Crew could do on the field. Then, COVID-19 came, and all major sport organizations canceled their events in the United States. The Crew only managed to play three games of their new season and left players and fans clueless about if the MLS would be able to continue its season.
On July 8, the MLS announced that they were creating a tournament called “MLS is Back Tournament” and would have all of the MLS teams competing to win the tournament. The Crew looked amazing in the opening group stage; they went undefeated and beat rival Cincinnati FC 4-0.
“It was really nice to watch the Crew out on the field playing again. It has been so long since we got to see any soccer played in the world, so it was awesome,” senior Charlie Debolt said. “It was also a bonus to see them look so sharp and crush all the teams they faced in the group stage; they showed signs that they can be contenders to win the MLS cup.”
After the group stage, the Crew would go on to lose in penalty kicks to Minnesota United in the round of 16 and start to prepare for the restart of the MLS regular season. After one quick month, the MLS regular season was starting up again and the players and fans could not be more excited. The Crew started off the season really hot, going on an eight-game unbeaten streak. Right when the streak ended, the Crew fell into a deep hole and only managed to win one of their next seven games.
Many fans started to worry that the Crew would be a first-round exit in this year’s MLS Cup Playoffs, but the Crew were not concerned. They were able to get hot again towards the very end of the regular season and gain some momentum into the playoffs. Once the playoffs started, the Crew seemed to be a completely different team. They won their first-round game against New York Red Bulls by a score of 3-2. Then, they managed to keep two shutouts, beating Nashville FC 2-0 in the conference semifinals and New England Revolution 1-0 in the conference finals.
The Crew were back in the finals for the first time since 2015. Crew fans everywhere couldn’t have been more excited to see their team back in the finals and competing for Columbus. In the MLS cup final, the Crew won by a score of 3-0 against the Seattle Sounders FC; Zelarayan was the star of the match scoring two goals and one assist.
“It means the world to the people of Columbus. To think that just a few years ago our local team was almost sold and relocated to Austin, Texas to now being MLS champions is honestly a miracle,” junior Josh Hertzfeld said.