Columbus Crew triumphed 2-1 over LAFC in the 2023 MLS Cup at Lower.com Field, winning their second title in four seasons with first-year head coach Wilfried Nancy.
It was all leading up to the last game of the 2023 MLS season, as the Crew looked to add their third overall title and second in four years, while the Black and Gold played for a second straight championship.
As predicted, the opening stages of the game featured a dominant Columbus in and around LAFC's penalty area.
The home team's persistence in the final third paid off just 15 minutes before halftime. Diego Rossi got on the end of Yaw Yeboah's cross and tried to pass it off, but LAFC's Diego Palacios intervened with his right hand in his own penalty box, prompting referee Armando Villareal to point to the penalty spot.
Up stepped Columbus fan-favorite Cucho Hernandez, and he slotted home the penalty to score his fifth goal of the postseason and put the Crew up 1-0 at Lower.com Field. It was a deserved lead for Columbus, as they didn't allow LAFC much time with the ball.
Things went from bad to worse for the defending champs, as Crew center-back Malte Amundsen played Yeboah through on goal with a beautifull weighted pass, and Columbus' No. 14 made no mistake on front of goal. The Crew were dominating and up 2-0 with just under 10 minutes remaining in the first half.
LAFC huffed and puffed but the Crew's defense stood stall up until the 74th minute when things started to get interesting. Jesus Murillo found himself with a golden chance in front of goal, but unselfishly played the ball off to Golden Boot winner Denis Bouanga who's shot was initially saved at point-blank range by Patrick Schulte. But the rebound fell to Bouanga who made no mistake on his second attempt.
The visitors' late efforts came close, but Columbus held on 2-1 to clinch their third MLS Cup and hand LAFC their third loss in a 2023 final. It's a huge milestone for one of the league's original sides, as only DC United and LA Galaxy have at least three titles with the Crew.
Nancy claims his first MLS Cup, while MLS legend Darlington Nagbe became just the second player in league history to win four titles.
Columbus Crew player ratings ( 3-4-2-1 )
Patrick Schulte - 6.5/10 - Was a bystander in the first half but probably should've done better to keep Bouanga's goal out.
CB: Steven Moreira - 7.5/10 - Kept Bouanga in his back pocket for the most part and didn't put a foot wrong.
CB: Rudy Camacho - 7/10 - Solid in defense, and possibly even better when stepping up to progress play.
CB: Malte Amundsen - 7.5/10 - Put a shift in like his fellow defenders, but his pass to set up Yeboah was a real thing of beauty.
RM: Mohamed Farsi - 7/10 - Was everywhere on his side of the pitch, keeping things in check at the back and playing nice one-twos going forward.
CM: Darlington Nagbe - 7.5/10 - He controlled the midfield once again to win his fourth MLS Cup.
CM: Aidan Morris - 7/10 - The young midfielder didn't disappoint in his second-ever MLS Cup start,
LM: Yaw Yeboah - 8/10 - His goal perfectly encapsulated how Wilfried Nancy wants the Crew to play.
AM: Alexandru Matan - 6.5/10 - Had a couple of nice moments but nothing really to write home about.
AM: Diego Rossi - 7.5/10 - Constantly a threat to the LAFC defense, he floated around the final third and created many half-chances in the process.
ST: Cucho Hernandez - 8.5/10 - Who else but Cucho to put the Crew up first? He delivered on the biggest stage to bring another MLS Cup to Columbus.
SUB: Evgen Cheberko (83' for Nagbe) - N/A
SUB: Sean Zawadzki (83' for Yeboah) - N/A
SUB: Christian Ramirez (85' for Hernandez) - N/A
SUB: Julian Gressel (85' for Farsi) - N/A
SUB: Kevin Molino (90' for Rossi) - N/A
Wilfried Nancy - 10/10 - You couldn't have scripted this game better for Nancy and the Crew. His team selection was spot on, and he won't be too upset with the conceded goal near the end of the game as his team captured their third MLS Cup in club history in Nancy's first year with the team.
LAFC player ratings ( 4-3-3 )
GK: Maxime Crepeau - 5/10 - Can't fault him for the first goal, but knowing how good he is, he should've done better for the second goal.
RB: Ryan Hollingshead - 5.5/10 - Was nowhere near his best and couldn't keep up with Yeboah.
CB: Jesus Murillo - 7.5/10 - Despite the scoreline, he was LAFC's best player.
CB: Giorgio Chiellini - 6.5/10 - His poor spacing played Yeboah onside for the second goal conceded, but he improved as the game wore on.
LB: Diego Palacios - 6.5/10 - Came up with a huge headed clearance in the second half after committing the handball that led to the first score of the game for the Crew.
CM: Tim Tillman - 5/10- A disappointing night from the midfielder and may have been lucky to not been sent before being substituted.
CM: Ilie Sanchez - 6/10 -Couldn't recreate the magic he had in the 2022 final.
CM: Kellyn Acosta - 6/10 - Didn't bring the required impact to the game, which was a let down given his previous experience.
RW: Cristian Olivera - 6/10 - The Uruguay international just couldn't get things going on the offensive end.
ST: Carlos Vela - 6/10 - In what could be his final game in the Black and Gold, he was muted in the attack overall.
LW: Denis Bouanga - 7/10 - Had zero impact on the game up until the final 20 or so minutes when he added his fifth playoff goal to keep his team in the game.
SUB: Mateusz Bogusz (60' for Tillman) - 6/10 - Gave it his all but it wasn't enough.
SUB: Filip Kravstev (76' for Acosta) - N/A
SUB: Sergi Palenica (87' for Palacios) - N/A
SUB: Mario Gonzalez (87' for Sanchez) - N/A
Steve Cherundolo - 6.5/10 - Picked the best lineup possible for his side but his approach kept them out of the game up until the final 15 minutes of play. It was a good run for the Black and Gold and they might have a busy offseason ahead of them with so many players' futures up in the air.
Player of the match - Cucho Hernandez (Columbus Crew)
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