Columbus Crew completes epic comeback vs. Cincinnati, will host MLS Cup Final

The Crew won in extra time despite trailing 2-0 at the 75th-minute mark


Dec 2, 2023; Cincinnati, Ohio, USA; Columbus Crew forward Cucho Hernandez (9) heads the ball heads the ball to forward Christian Ramirez (not pictured) to score against FC Cincinnati goalkeeper Roman Celentano (18) during the second half of extra time at TQL Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Katie Stratman-USA TODAY Sports

The Crew are headed to the 2023 MLS Cup Final. That didn't seem likely at the 75th-minute mark.

Columbus trailed 2-0 at FC Cincinnati's home ground on Saturday of the Eastern Conference Final, but somehow turned it around in miraculous fashion.

Brandon Vazquez opened the scoring in the 14th minute with a clinical finish before new league MVP Luciano Acosta doubled it in added time of the first half on an exquisite set piece play.

Columbus controlled the opening 16 minutes of the second half but couldn't find the back of the net. Cincinnati then took control of the next five minutes before the Crew flipped the switch, one it wouldn't flip back until the final whistle.

The Crew got on the board in the 75th minute off an own goal from Alvas Powell. The pressure came in waves afterwards and Cincinnati just couldn't cope.

Diego Rossi, who was threatening all game long down the left flank, slotted in a goal in the 86th minute after some brilliant team play, which eventually forced extra time.

Columbus dominated the first 15 minutes of added time but just couldn't get past Roman Celentano despite multiple prime opportunities. The Crew finally broke through in the 115th minute, five minutes before a penalty shootout Columbus didn't need to go to.

Kevin Molino, who entered the game in the 111th minute, delivered a back-post cross from the left edge of the box that found star forward Cucho Hernandez, who headed it back towards the goal that Christian Ramirez tapped home.

Ramirez had been threatening every time since coming on as a substitute in the 65th minute, even coming close on an overhead kick in extra time.

It was a deserved victory for Columbus given its road dominance, winning the possession battle 63% to 37% and recording 2.7 expected goals on 26 shots, per FotMob. For comparison's sake, Cincinnati mustered just 0.7 on 11 shots. On any other night, Cincinnati, the Supporters' Shield winners, might not have scored once.

Both teams also missed two big chances each, so the scoreline could've swung either way. But it ended with the rightful winner.

Columbus, which finished as the No. 3 seed out East, beat No. 2-seeded Orlando City 2-0 in the conference semifinals and will now host the final on Saturday, Dec. 9. It will host either No. 3 LAFC or No. 4 Houston Dynamo from the West.

LAFC is the defending MLS Cup champion while Columbus have won the title twice, most recently in 2020 when it beat the Seattle Sounders 3-0, also at home.

Six countries will host the soccer tournament.
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