The crowd was ready to have a big 2nd leg match at Red Bull Arena and once again a trip to the MLS Cup Finals was on the line for the Red Bulls as they needed to at least score two to force extra time or get three to win the aggregate. But after ninety minutes of regulation along with four minutes added, they came up short and the Columbus Crew will face the Portland Timbers at Maphre Stadium for the final.
The game plan was simple from Gregg Berhalter and that was to clog the middle of the field and force the Red Bulls to lose the ball or get as many half chances as possible. The Crew were able to get off to a decent start as they forced the Red Bulls into make some sloppy passes, but as the match went on the home side was able to start clicking and find some attacking lanes.
But as the game was getting late you saw the Crew continue to play well with their midfield clogging up the middle of the park and their midfielders helping out the defense when the Red Bulls had the ball. Many times they were allowed to go down the flanks by the Crew, but when there was that chance to get a scoring opportunity, it all went for not.
Solid defense and good goalkeeping by Steve Clark got the Crew into position to start thinking about hosting the Final and while maybe there might have been some doubt creeping into their minds, Anatole Abang who subbed into the match at the 72nd minute for Kemar Lawrence he would be the one to help that doubt creep in as he headed the ball past Clark for the lead in the match.
On the Crew's doorstep as the ball was headed back out by the defense it was Lloyd Sam who headed the ball back towards goal and the tall young Cameroonian found a way to get on the scoreboard as he headed in his first MLS Cup Playoff goal. With a good 90 seconds remaining in second half stoppage time it looked like the Red Bulls were going to do the impossible and once again the game of inches thwarted the home side.
After a long cross came from the far side Bradley Wright-Phillips was in perfect position to head the ball inside the near post to put Red Bull Arena into bedlam and sadly they came up empty. A solid header shot that looked to go in softly found it's way and struck the front of the near post and just cleared away by the Crew at the end line for a corner, but that would be the final chance of the night.
So after winning the second leg by a goal to nil, the Columbus Crew leave Red Bull Arena by an aggregate scoreline of two goals to one. While the Red Bulls were able to prevent an away goal by the visitors, it just wasn't enough for them to force extra time and now they head into the offseason thinking about what could've been if they were able to host the MLS Cup Final on December 6th.
But as this is the last article to be published on the 2015 season some will look at this ending as a failure because the club never got to the final, but I will disagree this time around. This is a new process that started with fan turmoil at a town hall meeting that saw a beloved figure get fired & plenty of distrust.
But seeing what and where the future of the club is going for the very first time is a big positive and with their USL side creating players who are ready for the big time is also showing why their success is going to be higher than before. Two shields in three seasons is nothing to sneeze at and once again it leads to an entrance to the CONCACAF Champions League which will be back next season.
Right now the 300 page book of Ali Curtis is at #290, if this side can reach the final since 2008 and possibly win it, then Page #300 will be celebrated and the party will be epic. But for right now it's time to see what moves this side will make in the offseason to either keep or bring in new pieces for the 2016 season.