This is it; the 2023 MLS Cup Final is upon us. The Columbus Crew vs LAFC game will be the last game of MLS this year. Both teams have won the MLS Cup before, with Los Angeles FC winning it last year.
Columbus Crew vs LAFC at Lower.com Field
Columbus Crew (2-2-1)
Note: Extra-time wins by Columbus Crew was counted as ties as they were not won in regulation.
The Columbus Crew finished with 57 points in the MLS season. This was good enough to finish third in the Eastern Conference. This meant that Columbus had to play two games on the road to get to the MLS Cup Final.
In their initial round of the MLS Cup Playoffs. Both Columbus and Atlanta exchanged wins. Then, on November 12, Columbus was able to get a good start and lead the game 3-0 early. They would finish the game with a 4-2 win, which meant a date on the road against the Orlando City SC team.
In the game against Orlando, Rodrigo Schlegel got a red card in the 77-minute. That means Orlando was a man short for all of extra time. That proved costly as both Christian Ramirez and Cucho Hernández scored to win at Exploria Stadium.
1 – The Columbus Crew are the first team to overcome a two-goal deficit on the road to advance in a single-leg round in the history of the MLS Cup Playoffs. Salvation. pic.twitter.com/NXaRNQw1gZ
— OptaJack⚽️ (@OptaJack) December 3, 2023
The MLS Eastern Conference Finals proved to be the toughest for Columbus. They trailed 2-0 for most of the game. Then, Cincinatti’s Alvas Powell committed an own goal and Diego Rossi scored a late-game equalizer in the 86-minute to tie the game. Then, in extra time, Columbus got a goal from Ramirez to send them to the MLS Cup Finals. This is what Patrick Schulte said in Brianne Mac Kay’s Columbus Dispatch article on being behind and coming back to win the game:
“Every day in training we put ourselves in similar scenarios like this,” Schulte said. “If you’re down, you have to fight until the end, and this group is a special group. So, we knew that we were just going to fight till the end, and we had 45 minutes left in our season at that point.”
The Crew has won two MLS Cup Finals in their history, both being in 2008 and 2020. They also made the 2015 MLS Cup Finals but was upset by the Portland Timbers.
Los Angeles FC (4-0-1)
Los Angeles FC made quick work of the Vancouver Whitecaps FC. It started with a 5-2 win at BMO Stadium. Then, in the second game, LAFC earned a controversial win against the Vancouver Whitecaps FC at BC Place. There were definitely some calls called against the Whitecaps, but credit to LAFC for the win, as they had five more shots on goal than Vancouver.
However, for Los Angeles, their toughest challenge came in the MLS Western Conference Semi-finals. In that game, Maxime Crépeau made eight saves for the team to secure the shutout. He then made five saves against the Houston Dynamos in the Western Conference Finals where Los Angeles won 2-0.
— LAFC (@LAFC) November 27, 2023
For defender, Ryan Hollingshead, the fourth-minute shot saved by Crépeau against Jordan Morris gave belief to the LAFC team (source: Dylan Butler of MLS Soccer):
“When he made that save, in my head I was like ‘It’s over, we just won the game,’” LAFC defender Ryan Hollingshead said. “That sort of momentum shift when they’ve got a clear chance like that, a goal-scorer like Jordan, I mean this guy’s been one of the best goal-scorers in our league for almost a decade now. This guy’s been scoring goals for so long. He doesn’t miss a ton of those; that’s a testament to Max just standing him up, making a decision.”
The defending MLS Cup champions has a chance to repeat as champions. This time, they will be playing on the road as they finished third in the Western Conference, but with 52 points, which is five less than Columbus.
Since both teams are from opposite conferences, they have not faced each other that often. In MLS season play, Los Angeles won all four times against Columbus. This included a 2-0 win earned last year. LAFC has lost to the Crew once though in 2019, in a club friendly.
Both teams as a result will not be too familiar with each other as it will be interesting how both teams approach this one-off game in the MLS Cup Final.
How to Watch the Game and Predictions
"We are at our best when we enjoy ourselves."
— CBS Sports Golazo ⚽️ (@CBSSportsGolazo) December 6, 2023
Prediction: Columbus Crew SC 1 – Los Angeles FC 2
Columbus is a good team, but with the presence of Crépeau and goal-scorer, Denis Bouanga, will both pose a challenge for Columbus. The Crew will pose a threat though as they have a bona fide goal-scorer and assist man with Cucho Hernández, but it might not be enough against this LAFC side. Crépeau is the lone Canadian player for Los Angeles FC. This is while Columbus has Canadians like Mohamed Farsi and Jacen Russell-Rowe playing for the team. Russell-Rowe was part of the CanMNT Concacaf Nations League roster in November.
Fans can watch the game nationally in Canada on TSN. It will also be available in Canada on French-Canadian sports channel, RDS. As for how Canada, the U.S., and the rest of the world can watch the game, it will also be available on Apple TV for free. It will take place this Saturday on December 9, 2023 at Lower.com Field in Columbus, Ohio.
Photo Credit: Joseph Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports, of a Los Angeles FC Headshot, on December 7, 2023.