Columbus Crew dig a hole after early errors. Attack unable to mount a comeback in Cup final.
The Portland Timbers defeated the Columbus Crew 2-1 to win the MLS Cup final. Portland scored two early goals and never looked back. Kei Kamara cut the deficit in half in the 18th minute but the Crew rarely challenged for a second goal throughout the rest of the match. The Timbers were the better team on the day and deserve to be champions.
The final was reminiscent of the lone regular season meeting between the two teams. Portland won 2-1 in Columbus on September 26th. The Crew dominated possession in both matches and did not capitalize on their advantage. After having the ball for 61 percent of match, the Crew could only manage one shot on target. They had nine total shots but three were off target and five were blocked. The Crew did not deserve to win based on their deficient attacking efforts.
However, they were unlucky to fall into an early deficit. Steve Clark could not handle a standard back pass from Wil Trapp and Diego Valeri pounced in the first minute. Clark took too much time on the ball, allowing Valeri to close on the goalkeeper and deflect his clearance attempt into the Crew net.
Six minutes later, Rodney Wallace headed home a second Portland goal. The goal was the culmination of a strange sequence in which the ball was incorrectly ruled to still be in the field of play. Timber midfielder, Diego Chara played a simple ball out wide to Alvas Powell. In his effort to keep the ball in play, Powell kicked the ball back onto the field and directly to Crew midfielder, Tony Tchani.
Tchani nonchalantly began to dribble the ball towards the sideline, assuming a throw-in had been awarded. Timber midfielder, Darlington Nagbe dispossessed the unsuspecting Tchani and began the sequence that would lead to the second Timber goal. The ball was clearly out of bounds. The assistant referee and main referee were both in the vicinity and both made a horrendous error by allowing play to continue.
With that in mind, these early blunders cannot be justified as the scapegoats of the Crew downfall. Aside from their lone goal, the Crew rarely challenged the Timber defense. The attack lacked the effectiveness that had been so evident throughout the rest of the post-season. Kei Kamara and Federico Higuain could not rally for chances late in the match. Even when they were forced to throw caution to the wind late in the match, Columbus failed to summon a serious scoring opportunity. The Crew did not deserve to win because of their inability to create chances.
The same cannot be said about the Timbers. Portland did not pump the brakes after scoring two early goals. Even after they conceded, their attacking opportunities were more frequent than that of the Crew. The Timbers managed 12 shots, eight of which were on target. Portland could have scored five goals. Desperate defending, luck, and the post saved the Crew from the complete embarrassment of losing 5-1.
Columbus buried themselves early on. Clark’s gaffe and Tchani’s unawareness put them in a hole that they were unwilling to dig out of. They were unlucky, but also unconvincing that they wanted to be MLS champions. Ending a season with a loss in any championship game is disappointing. Unfortunately, the manner in which the Crew bowed out added insult to injury. One of the best attacking sides in the MLS was unable to mount any legitimate attacking threats.
Columbus had a fantastic season and deserve to be proud of their accumulative effort throughout the campaign. Unfortunately, they were unable to round it out with a complete effort in the final and will be left pondering numerous “what if” scenarios during the off-season.