The Columbus Crew triumphed 3-2 against FC Cincinnati in the dramatic Eastern Conference final to clinch a spot in the MLS Cup final, as goals from Diego Rossi, Alvas Powell and Christian Ramirez propel the underdogs to success.
The Hell is Real derby found a whole new level on December 2, with a spot in the league final on the line. Both Cincinnati and Columbus kicked off strong, but Pat Noonan’s side quickly established themselves as frontrunners.
Brandon Vazquez found the back of the net first, receiving the ball inside the box from Aaron Boupendza to inspire the left-footed shot into the opposite corner. Cincinnati then doubled the lead before the halftime whistle with a phenomenal strike by 2023 MLS MVP Lucho Acosta.
The forward stepped up for the free kick, but allowed Alvaro Barreal to take a quick touch to set himself up for the right-footed rocket to the lower right corner.
Despite the score, Columbus returned to the field for the second half with a newfound motivation. The team constantly clawed their way into the opposing box, challenging Cincinnati goalkeeper Roman Celentanto with several shots on goal.
With 15 minutes until the final whistle, Powell attempted to redirect a cross by Columbus but forced the ball into his net for own goal instead. The visiting side capitalized on the momentum, inspiring Diego Rossi to manage the equalizer and send the game to overtime.
At this point, Noonan had substituted out Vazquez and Boupendza, leaving Acosta with the responsibility up top. The MVP struggled alone, giving the advantage to Columbus.
Ramirez finally clinched the game-winner, tapping in a header by Cucho Hernandez in a stunning collective effort.
The Columbus Crew will attempt to win their second MLS Cup when hosting the winner of the Western Conference final on December 9 at Lower.com Field. The team first lifted the trophy in 2020, defeating the Seattle Sounders 3-0.