The Crew went on to defeat the Kansas City Wizards in Columbus which sent them to the finals. Chicago pounded a wounded New England three zip in Bridgeview, sending them to face us in the Eastern Conference finals. It was a match for the ages, everything it was supposed to be and then some.
There were so many back stories.
The biggest one was the return of Brian McBride. McBride was one of the original Crew players and face of the organization. To this day, people still associate McBride with Columbus. Brian left in 2003 to join English Premier League (top level) club Fulham. This season, he returned to America to end his career in the MLS but not for Columbus; he wanted to play for Chicago, his hometown (Arlington Heights). His first encounter with his former MLS team was in Chicago where he had the first and last goals of the two goal tie. Now he would make his return to Columbus with our elimination on his mind.
Another big story was the return of fan favorite Jon Busch. Jon was acquired in the 2002 SuperDraft and was starting for the Crew by 2003. Busch was between the pipes when Columbus won the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup in 2002 and won goalkeeper of the year in 2004. He suffered season ending ACL injuries in both 2005 and 2006. He was waived in 2007, picked up by Toronto, then waived again and then picked up by Chicago. Busch has been, and always will be, a vocal person. The person who once stated that he could not see playing anywhere but Columbus was now displaying public anger towards Coach Sigi Schmid.
What else? The Fire had Kettering, Ohio native Chris Rolfe. Both teams played to two, two to two draws. Chicago was the only team Columbus did not defeat in 2008. The Crew lost to Chicago back in the June Open Cup match.
The first goal of the match was the worst possible scenario. Roughly 30 minutes into the game a defensive brain fart lets McBride get a head on a Mapp cross. One to zip, visitors and the travelling fans were jubilant. The Columbus fans never gave up though. The second half was a completely different story.
Roughly 50 minutes into the match, Crew central defender Chad Marshall out-duals the aerial powerhouse McBride and heads home a Guillermo Barros Schelotto free-kick. It was a perfect strike off the cross-bar; nothing anyone could have done to stop it. Five minutes later, Eddie Gaven buries a low, bouncing shot underneath Busch for the second goal. That one would end up the game winner.
About forty nervous minutes followed. I certain every single Crew fan was thinking the same thing: when was McBride going to tie this in the dying moments of regulation (just like he did in Chicago). Well, it didn’t happen. A few missed heartbeats later the Crew were going to their first MLS Cup with their first conference championship.
The Crew will face the Western Conference champions - the New York Red Bulls??? Don't ask. Just destroy them.