We were there for the Portland Timbers run through the MLS Cup Playoffs and all the way to Sunday's Final, but how exactly did the Columbus Crew SC end up in the match as well? Let's take a quick run through the Crew's playoff appearances and see just how the Timbers' opponents rose to the top of the Eastern Conference.
The Regular Season
Record: 15-11-8, 53 points, 58 goals scored, 53 goals allowed, 2nd place in the Eastern Conference
Like the Timbers, the Crew started their season off slow, giving up few goals early in the season, but scoring few as well. As the year went on however, the floodgates opened at both ends of the pitch for Columbus and the goals began to come. By the end of the season, the Crew had gone on three different four game unbeaten runs, and were showing the same never-say-die spirit that would see them through the playoffs.
Again like the Timbers, the Crew turned it on in their final matches of the regular season, grabbing second place in the East with a pair of wins in their last two matches; a 2-0 win over Toronto FC and a 5-0 win over D.C. United.
The Conference Semifinals
Montreal was content to close out the game with a lead, but then the game got weird. A simple pass led to a turnover and a goal earlier, this time it would lead to a tackle and a yellow card. Clark took the pass to cycle it back to Gaston Sauro, but Drogba came in to pressure late. He slid with a late tackle from behind to upend the keeper. Drogba then grabbed Clark's leg and didn't let go until Clark shook him free. Drogba earned a yellow for the utterly bizarre and dangerous series of events.
The home club wasted no time making a statement, as star forward Kei Kamara headed a precisely placed open play cross from left back Waylon Francis to score in the fourth minute of play. 19,026 were on hand to witness the contest and while sparse spots of Impact blue were visible in the stands, the Crew SC faithful erupted deafeningly as Kamara converted.
The Conference Finals
The opener was as direct as anything Crew SC normally does. Columbus went to the usual set piece to open the game and it paid off. Wil Trapp took a layoff from the kickoff and booted it toward the Red Bull goal. Kei Kamara then nodded it to Finlay. The ball squirted loose and fell to Meram. Justin didn't miss. The goal was scored in nine seconds, an MLS Playoff record, and put Columbus up in spectacular fashion.
The defense had been the Crew SC Achilles' heel. They hadn't held strong during the regular season and fell to the bottom of the defensive rankings in the league. Throughout the playoffs, the defense was reborn. Crew SC held Didier Drogba to zero goals in 210 minutes and the high-powered Red Bulls to one goal in stoppage time of the second game. The offense got them to the playoffs. The defense carried them to the MLS Cup final. A game that will be in Columbus in less than a week's time.