for this game

Marshall, Schelotto lift Crew to MLS Cup glory

Nov 24, 2008 - 1:11 AM CARSON, California (Ticker) -- For the first time in franchise history, the Columbus Crew are Major League Soccer champions.

Chad Marshall snapped a tie in the 52nd minute and Frankie Hejduk added an insurance goal 30 minutes later as the Crew recorded a 3-1 triumph over the New York Red Bulls on Sunday in the MLS Cup Final.

League MVP Guillermo Barros Schelotto recorded a Cup Final-record three assists to help deliver a championship in his second season in MLS. Fittingly, the captain claimed MVP honors for Sunday's match as well.

"I'm still a little numb," said Columbus coach Sigi Schmid, who became the first head coach to win MLS Cup titles with two different teams. He won in 2002 with the Los Angeles Galaxy.

"You go through a lot of emotions when you win a game like this. I'm happy for our team and the city of Columbus. We stuck together all year. We're a team. The group was tremendous and worked hard every day. That's what got us here and that's how we did it."

Columbus cruised to the Supporters' Shield during the regular season but did not have much success against the Red Bulls, who took two of three meetings - including a 3-1 victory at Giants Stadium on October 18 as New York was making its playoff push.

But the Crew were up to the task when it counted. In fact, they hardly let the Red Bulls garner any momentum at all.

After New York forward John Wolyniec leveled the match in the 51st minute, Columbus immediately answered and reclaimed the lead - this time for good.

"I believe we were a better team the second half," Schelotto said. "The first half was tough for us. After our second goal, I thought we would settle down and were a better team at that point. I thought that we would hold on and clamp down on them and take it to the end and win."

Schelotto delivered a perfect corner kick right in front of the net to Marshall, who knocked home what proved to be the game-winner.

The Crew maintained control throughout the rest of the second half with an aggressive offensive mentality - and that paid off once again in the 82nd minute.

Schelotto lofted a high lob pass to Hejduk, who scored on a header to essentially put the game out of reach, all but officially bringing the Philip F. Anschutz Trophy to Columbus.

"I think we were the better team with better chances to score," Red Bulls coach Juan Carlos Osorio said. "We limited them to one chance and they put it away. We came out strong in the second half, got back in the game.

"Then to give up a goal so soon off a corner was very disappointing. It was too easy. My guys played with pride and passion, and that's all I can ask for."

Alejandro Moreno, who led the Crew with nine goals this season, opened the scoring in the 31st minute Sunday. From the right side of the box, the Venezuelan forward dribbled a soft roller just past the outstretched arm of New York goalkeeper Danny Cepero. The ball slipped inside the left post for a 1-0 lead.

"The field was a little weird. It was spongy, it took us a while to get used to it," Marshall said. "We were under a lot of pressure in the first half and getting that goal against the run of play was what we needed at that time.

"They're an offensive-minded team and that's what we expected. They're good at switching around to confuse defenses and with the speed of Dane Richards, we're lucky to have gotten away in the first half with just one goal."

Early in the second half, the Red Bulls answered as Wolyniec redirected Dane Richards' pass with his left foot and poked it past goalkeeper William Hesmer to knot the game at 1-1.

But Schelotto and company ultimately were too much for New York, as Columbus claimed the league title in its first-ever appearance in the MLS Cup final.

It was a fitting end to what was often a dominant regular season for the Crew, who compiled 17 victories and 57 points during the season. That included a nine-game unbeaten streak that lasted more than two months before, ironically, the Red Bulls' aforementioned 3-1 triumph in October brought it to an end.

Schelotto posted a league-best 19 assists and added six during the postseason.

The Crew rebounded after missing the playoffs the last three years, as they finished in sixth in the Eastern Conference each campaign. They defeated the Kansas City Wizards, 4-1, in their first-round aggregate series before outlasting the Chicago Fire and their stingy defense in the conference final.

"We had a rough spot in June and July, but we put that behind us," Moreno said. "My hat's off to Sigi and it's great to win in L.A."

For the Red Bulls, the road to the title game was a lot rockier. In fact, they needed a bit of help from Columbus to even qualify for the playoffs.

New York had a chance to clinch a spot in its regular-season finale, but dropped an unimpressive 5-2 decision to Chicago. However, the Crew's 1-0 win over D.C. United delivered the fourth and final Western Conference playoff berth to the Red Bulls.

They upset the two-time reigning champion Houston Dynamo in the first round and advanced to the MLS Cup final with a 1-0 victory over Real Salt Lake in last weekend's Western Conference final.

Schelotto became the third player to win both league MVP and MLS Cup MVP honors in the same year.

Tony Meola was the first, accomplishing the feat in 2000 as he backstopped the Kansas City Wizards to their MLS Cup championship. Carlos Ruiz did it two seasons later, following a 24-goal season with a golden goal in the Cup final to give the Los Angeles Galaxy their first MLS title.






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