Coming into an MLS Cup laden with star power, everyone was looking at the forwards to make an impact but it was the wide areas, especially wide left, where MLS Cup was lost for Los Angeles FC. The Columbus Crew are able to pile pressure on one of the best teams in Major League Soccer by pushing everyone higher up the pitch to keep LAFC off their game. Center backs stepped up allowing Darlington Nagbe and Aidan Morris to also push forward which in turn created room to exploit wide in Saturday's 2-1 win.
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Cucho Hernandez used some of that in order to drift around the pitch taking five shots, putting two on target, and scoring a goal en route to picking up the MLS Cup MVP but the player who really shined in the space they were given was Yaw Yeboah. The Ghanaian wingback, who entered the game with three goals and four assists in 31 matches, drew a hand ball that left to Hernandez's goal before scoring one himself, but he realistically could've had an even bigger impact in the match.
Each time that he touched the ball, Yeboah was able to get past Ryan Hollingshead with ease as LAFC struggled when stretched. Defender Giorgio Chiellini knew after the game that the Black and Gold's gameplan wasn't bad but the Crew made them pay for every mistake that they made. It started with poise from Nagbe in the middle, which made coach Wilfried Nancy say after the game, "Darlington is Darlington. He is amazing."
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He was happy that his team was able to be themselves which led to an attractive attack and one of the best team goals that MLS has seen this season. Yeboah's goal began as a Hollingshead pass that was intercepted by Morris and that's when the magic happened. It then went on an 11-pass journey with the final pass delivered by center back Malte Amundsen. When a center back gets a pass at the center circle, no one is anticipating that it will lead to a goal but that's where if you're paying attention to Nancy's Crew, you expect the unexpected. Amundsen delivered a line-splitting pass to Yeboah that he was able to trap and finish past Maxime Crepeau with confidence.
"The second game against Atlanta, we lost because of the quality of Atlanta and because we weren't brave and courageous. So the way we play, I want them to attack. To be smart but to attack," Nancy said about how his team is setup. "We do that because we believe that we can prevent all the bodies in behind that the opposition can play and a key point for me is how we manipulate the ball when we have it. The idea is to try to take care of the ball but with a purpose and to try to be really aggressive in when we use the ball. So tonight, they did it well, that's why we had a good game."
The traits described by Nancy could be clearly seen all match and the goal proved to be a critical one. When Denis Bouanga scored for LAFC in the second half, the Crew had to refocus but it was easier to do still having a lead that was built from their aggression early and knowing how to comfortable play with the ball while leading. At times, the aggressiveness can come back to bite them but when it works, they're one of the best teams in the league. On Saturday, they were the very best.