Columbus off to MLS Cup final
HARRISON, N.J.— The Columbus Crew earned only their second trip to the MLS Cup final in the 20-year history of Major League Soccer and their first since 2008 on Sunday night, losing 1-0 to the New York Red Bulls but advancing with a two-leg 2-1 aggregate victory.
Anatole Abang scored 3 minutes into second-half injury time and Bradley Wright-Phillips hit the post with a header 1 1/2 minutes later for the Red Bulls, who fell one step short of the MLS championship game for the second straight year.
Columbus will host the championship game at Mapfre Stadium on Dec. 6 against the Portland Timbers, who completed a 5-3 aggregate victory earlier Sunday with a 2-2 draw at FC Dallas.
The Crew will look to win their second MLS championship. They beat New York in Carson, California, seven years ago.
Columbus goalkeeper Steve Clark rarely was tested by a New York team that scored a league-best 62 goals during the regular season.
Abang, who replaced defender Kemar Lawrence in the 72nd minute, headed in from a goalmouth scramble, and Wright-Phillips nearly had a second when his header skipped off the base of the right post.
New York had the majority of possession throughout but generated little from it in the first half. It was more active in the second half, but still only generated sporadic chances.
The Crew often played with 10 men behind the ball, picking their moments to counter. Columbus had the two best chances of the first half, one coming less than two minutes after the opening kickoff.
Kei Kamara dribbled on goal before a mix-up among center backs Matt Miazga and Ronald Zubar allowed Ethan Finlay to find time and space at the top of the penalty area on a crossing diagonal run. Red Bulls goalkeeper Luis Robles raced off his line to block the low shot with his legs.
In the 38th minute, Kamara was able to turn on Miazga to volley a ball at Robles, who had to dive to his right to knock away.
The only time the Red Bulls forced Clark to make a save was when on the final play of the first half when Bradley Wright-Phillips was able to direct a header on goal.
While the Red Bulls generated more shots, few troubled Clark. Their best opportunity until the goal came in the 73rd when Sacha Kljestan had an open look and drove a shot on one bounce that Clark had to dive to punch away.
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