COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Lucas Zelarayán scored midway through the first half and added the puck in the 82nd minute, and the Columbus team won its second MLS Cup title by beating defending champion Seattle Sounders by 3-0 on Saturday night.
Derrick Etienne Jr.also scored in the first 45 minutes for Columbus. The team withstood pressure from Seattle in the second half and finally celebrated after Zelarayán’s goal.
Zelarayán, the MLS Newcomer of the year and the greatest signing in franchise history, was the best player on the field on a night when the team played with short hands. Columbus was without midfielders Darlington Nagbe and Pedro Santos, having both tested positive for COVID-19 this week.
Despite the absence, the team was significantly better and Zelarayán was the instigator. Columbus won its first title since 2008 and beat Seattle to become only the fourth back-to-back champion in League history. The Sounders, who played in their fourth final in five years, tried to be the first repeat champions since LA Galaxy in 2011-12.
It was Columbus ‘ first Finals appearance since 2015, when the Portland Timbers and current Columbus coach Caleb Porter were denied a title. The franchise was moved almost a few years ago, but efforts to keep the team in Columbus turned out to be a success and now there is a championship to celebrate.
The loss of Nagbe and Santos seemed to be the biggest story to get into the final. It was the first time this season that Columbus played without one of the two players in its lineup.
But his teammates-Zelarayán-canceled their absence.
Zelarayán scored in the 25th minute from a perfect feed from Harrison Afful, getting behind Seattle fullback Alex Roldan and snaking his left foot volley behind goalkeeper Stefan Frei. Six minutes later, Zelarayán made Etienne’s smart play and his curling shot gave Columbus a 2-0 lead. Etienne started in Santos ‘ place.
And Zelarayán showed patience before throwing a left-footed shot past Frei. Zelarayán was the third player in an MLS Cup Final with two goals and the first since Alecko Eskandarian in 2004.
Seattle needed an eventful comeback in the final 15 minutes of its Western Conference final against Minnesota United to reach the MLS Cup. In the 2-0 win over Minnesota, the Sounders scored three goals, including Gustav Svensson’s winning goal in extra time after a corner ball.
The deficit was the same for most of the second half against Columbus, but the magic of Seattle’s comeback just five days earlier was missing. The Sounders had plenty of chances in the second half, but attempts failed to find the net. Nicolas Lodeiro opened the scoring in the 71st minute. Three minutes later, Svensson failed with a header ball to the bar.
Jordan Morris had the final good look for Seattle in the 80th minute, but his header was saved by Eloy..