COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Artur scored in the 59th minute and the Columbus Crew advanced to the MLS Cup title game with a 1-0 victory over the New England Revolution on Sunday in the Eastern Conference final.
The third-seeded Crew will face the winner of the Western Conference final Monday night between the defending champion Seattle Sounders and Minnesota United.
The Crew will host the title game, set for Saturday.
Columbus beat upstart Nashville with two goals during extra time last Sunday to advance to the conference finals while the team struggled with positive coronavirus cases.
“We’re one step away,” Crew coach Caleb Porter said. That’s what I keep going back to. The job’s not done. We started this tournament, we wanted to make four steps. We’ve made three of the four. I know the guys in that locker room, they’re real happy to put the Eastern Conference championship trophy in the trophy case, and that’s what it’s about, but there’s a much bigger trophy.”
A limited number of fans were on hand at MAPFRE Stadium.
The eighth-seeded Revolution were the surprise of the playoffs, getting past Montreal in a play-in game before eliminating the top-seeded Philadelphia Union and No. 4 Orlando City.
“On the day, Columbus was the better team, I think,” Revs coach Bruce Arena said. “I think they deserved to win the game. Give them credit for the goal they created, just better at anticipating plays than we were.”
Columbus had several good chances at the start, including Darlington Nagbe’s attempt in the fifth minute that was saved by goalkeeper Matt Turner. Turner went on to have five saves in the first half alone, and six for the game.
The Crew finally broke through with Artur’s deftly placed goal just inside the post. It was the Brazilian midfielder’s third goal of the season.
Gustavo Bou had a chance for the Revolution in stoppage time but his attempt was saved by Crew goalkeeper Andrew Tarbell.
The Crew was still celebrating its conference trophy when Porter said the attention shifts to celebrating the MLS Cup.
“We’re thinking about that next game. We want to win the final and be champions,” Porter said. “But I’m real proud of our group. It was a tough game. Turner was the man of the match, he stood on his head. Great goal that we scored. We should have scored more.”
Columbus had another player test positive for COVID-19 on Wednesday. A total of eight players had tested positive since Nov. 22 and were isolated. A handful of players were unavailable Sunday.
One of the league’s original teams, Columbus won the title in 2008, then hosted the MLS Cup in 2015, but lost to the Portland Timbers — then led by current Crew coach Porter.
New England, also an original team, has been to the MLS Cup final six times, but has never won the title. Arena is the winningest MLS Cup head coach with five titles, twice with D.C. United in the league’s first two seasons, and three times with the L.S. Galaxy. He wrapped up his second season with New England.
The post-season play gives the Revolution something to build on in a strange season with an abbreviated schedule, Arena said.
“In my own mind, I almost discount the regular season because I think it was such a difficult regular season for everyone. I really do,” Arena said. “Just look at teams that ended up first in their respective conferences, that didn’t make it to the MLS Cup final.”
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