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Crew Snuff Fire, Will Play in First MLS Cup Final

The Columbus Crew’s history can sort of be summed up by that old saying:

Always a bridesmaid, never a bride.

They had been to the playoffs several times, but they had never made it to the “Big Game”, the MLS Cup Final.
Well, since their leader all those seasons was Brian McBride, I guess it was more like “always a Mcbridesmaid“, but I digress.

For a little while tonight, McBride looked like he was going to have a fairy tale ending to his big return to MLS. Unfortunately for the Crew, he doesn’t play for them anymore. After years plying his trade abroad, his 29th minute goal for the Chicago Fire appeared to be the figurative cherry on top of an already memorable run for the veteran player. But, karma came for Mr. McBride Thursday night at Columbus Crew Stadium.

McBride is still the Crew’s leading scorer. It must have been hard for the Columbus faithful supporters to watch him notch that first goal. McBride’s goal would have been all the Fire needed on most nights this season due to their stingy defense. But not tonight. Instead, the Crew rallied back to score two second half goals and advance to their first MLS Cup Final.

Both CMB goals were (predictably) generated by assists from Guillermo Barros Schelotto. If Schelotto doesn’t win the MVP, I will quit watching MLS. The man has earned that recognition (and if I see Donovan win one more award, I’ll lose it). Now I know why fans of Schelotto’s squad in Argentina literally held a protest outside his house when he threatened to leave the club. He’s that good.

The first goal of the night was fittingly scored by defensive captain Chad Marshall, who has earned his Defender of the Year honors. The second goal was notched by Eddie Gaven, who has made a nice claim this year to be invited to some U.S. Nats games in late 2008 and early 2009. Both were attributable to Schelotto though, who quite simply has been a revelation in Ohio this year.

It’s hard to believe that the Crew, a charter member of MLS, had never qualified for the Cup Final until tonight. Their dramatic turnaround is not just about Schelotto though. It’s really more of a testament to Sigi Schmid’s coaching and personnel decisions than anything else. He deserves much of the credit for this miracle run and he has certainly earned the Coach of the Year honors he recently received. Their huge season (17-7-6), which can be attributed to his tactical decisions, actually managed to get them just back above .500 all-time (166-165-67). It seems the Crew have come full circle and finally broken their Cup Final hex. They will now play for MLS’s highest honor against the winner of this weekend’s RSL/NYRB showdown.

Oh yeah, and did anyone actually go ahead and bet my prediction for this game? I nailed it. Exact. Not too hard to pick the home team by one you say? Tell that to most of the so-called experts who predicted Blanco and the Fire would be playing @ the HDC for the MLS Cup instead of the classy Crew.

In this time of great international economic uncertainty, my predictions may be the only thing out there you can bet on these days and feel confident.

Well, maybe not. My predictions aren’t that good.

After all, I didn’t exactly see this one “from the start”.