One of the two feel-good teams of the year has fulfilled its dream of going to the MLS Cup final. The Columbus Crew defeated the Chicago Fire, 2-1, on Thursday.
The match looked to be a tough matchup and it didn't disappoint. Within the first twenty-five minutes, there had already been tackles and yellow cards shown. Fifteen seconds into the match,Marshall tackled Cuauhtemoc Blanco along the right touchline without a foul being called. Bakary Soumare from the Fire was issued a yellow card in the 22nd minute for tackling Gaven.
It wasn't until the 29th minute that any club scored. Brian McBride powered home one of his famous headers to give the Fire a 1-0 lead. Justin Mapp had floated in a cross toward McBride who easily converted the goal. This was McBride's first match against his former club with an opposing MLS club. Instead of a heart-warming home reunion, banners read "Wanted. McBride. Treason." and chants of "Traitor" could be heard. Any time he was part of the action, McBride was booed.
For the rest of the first half, the Crew could not find a goal. It wasn't until the beginning of the second half that the Crew drew level. A free kick from Schelatto lead to a header goal from Marshall who beat McBride to get the ball. The score was now 1-1.
The match was now in the Crew's favor as they played with a renewed vigor. In the 55th minute, the Crew pulled ahead with another header goal courtesy of Gaven. The Fire attempted to get a goal back, but the Crew held on long enough to win the match 2-1, and advance to the MLS Cup final.
After going 11-2-2 at home during the regular season, the Crew won both playoff games, giving them eight in a row at home, outscoring the visitors 18-3 with five shutouts. Each time the Fire and Crew met during the regular season, the match ended in a 2-2 draw. Both clubs had their own award winners. Chicago had Jon Busch who won MLS Goalkeeper of the Year while Columbus had Marshall who won MLS Defender of the Year.
The next semifinal match between the New York Red Bulls and the other feel-good club, Real Salt Lake, will take place on Saturday. The winner of the match will meet the Columbus Crew in the final.
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