Artur celebrates his goal with his teammates. (Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports)
COLUMBUS, Ohio – For the third time in its 25-year history, Columbus Crew SC is heading to the MLS Cup final.
Columbus clinched a spot in Major League Soccer’s championship game with a 1-0 victory over the New England Revolution in the Eastern Conference final on Sunday.
The team will host the winner of Monday night’s Western Conference final between Seattle Sounders FC and Minnesota United, on Saturday, Dec. 12.
It will be the final game at MAPFRE Stadium, the first soccer-specific stadium that was built in MLS, in 1999. Columbus will call a a new downtown stadium home starting next year.
Columbus won MLS Cup in 2008 against the Red Bulls and lost to the Portland Timbers when it hosted the match in 2015.
Crew SC is headed for MLS Cup thanks to midfielder Artur, who scored only his fourth career goal for the Black and Gold.
“The job is not done,” Columbus head coach Caleb Porter said. “When we started this tournament, we wanted to make four steps. We have made three of the four. I know the guys in that locker room are really happy to put the Eastern Conference championship trophy in the trophy case – that’s what it is about – but there’s a much bigger trophy, the MLS Cup trophy, that we have our eye on.”
Neither side managed to strike in the first half of the match, although Columbus had the better of the opportunities, with Lucas Zelarayan and Pedro Santos finding clean looks on goal that were denied by some superb goalkeeping from Matt Turner.
The Revs had their best opportunity of the first half in the 28th minute, when Carles Gil played a ball over the top to Adam Buksa down the left side, allowing the Polish striker to streak by Jonathan Mensah and rip a shot on goal, only to see it deflect off the near post.
The Crew found their breakthrough just before the hour mark after Zelarayan sent in a cross to the far post that was laid back off across the box by Mensah, allowing Artur to slot home a first-time finish.
“They’ve become winners and I told them that in the locker room,” Porter said. “They have evolved from good players into winners. It’s a credit to the group because we have two very creative players that help us play football, but I think what I’m most proud of is when we don’t have the ball, how hard they work.”