Columbus Crew outclass LAFC to win club's 3rd MLS Cup
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Wilfried Nancy's slick-passing Columbus Crew scored twice in four minutes against a Los Angeles FC side that looked like anything but defending champions to win their third MLS Cup on Saturday at Lower.com Field.
First-half goals from Cucho Hernandez and Yaw Yeboah gave the Crew enough breathing room to survive the impact of Denis Bouanga's record-equaling 38th goal for LAFC in 2023 and leave the field 2-1 winners.
Columbus has now claimed two of the last four MLS Cup titles, making the threats of relocation from 2018 look silly and the booing of MLS commissioner Don Garber during the trophy presentation that followed more than just a ceremonial sports function.
The Crew earned their reward for a dominant opening half-hour in the 33rd minute when Hernandez drilled a penalty kick that LAFC's Diego Palacios conceded for handball. Malte Amundsen then sprung a spectacular defense-splitting pass to set up Yeboah for Columbus' second goal in the 37th.
Bouanga scored off his own rebound in the 74th minute to give LAFC hope of a comeback and tie teammate Carlos Vela for the most goals scored by an MLS player in a calendar year. But it wasn't enough, as the 2022 winners eventually surrendered the title they won last year in a memorable shootout against the Philadelphia Union.
The feat is substantial considering the difference in salaries between the two clubs. LAFC ranked fourth among MLS sides with just over $20 million in player compensation, while the Crew, who ramped up spending over the last two years just to keep up with the likes of LAFC, still sat in the middle of the pack with around $15 million.
Now, LAFC face several important personnel decisions, including whether to retain longtime striker Vela, whose contract is expiring. Defender Giorgio Chiellini, the oldest player to appear in a MLS Cup at 39, may have also contested the final game of his decorated career.