Match Preview

MLS Cup Preview | LAFC vs Columbus Crew 12/9/23


LAFC vs Columbus Crew

Saturday, December 9 at 1:00 pm PT

Location: Field, Columbus, Ohio

TV: MLS Season Pass on Apple TV, FOX, FOX Deportes

Radio: 710 AM ESPN, ESPN LA App, 980 AM La Mera Mera

Following a 2-0 win over the Houston Dynamo in the Western Conference Final, LAFC will look to repeat as MLS Cup champions when it faces Columbus Crew on Saturday, December 9, at Field, in the 2023 MLS Cup Final.

Defender Ryan Hollingshead gave LAFC a 1-0 lead in the 44th minute when he knocked in a rebound following a Giorgio Chiellini header for his third goal of the playoffs. LAFC conceded possession to Houston (who controlled the ball for 71 percent of the match), then sealed its spot in the MLS Cup Final when Dynamo defender Franco Escobar deflected a Diego Palacios cross into his own net for an own goal.

LAFC is the 10th team in MLS history to reach the MLS Cup in consecutive seasons. The reigning MLS Cup champions will play their 53rd game of the year on Saturday—adding to their MLS record for matches played across all competitions. (The Crew has played 45 matches in 2023.)

LAFC has won all three of its matches against Columbus by a combined score of 7-0. Two of LAFC’s wins in the series came at Field, including a 2-0 result in the clubs’ most recent meeting, in May 2022.

Columbus Crew In-depth

Led by head coach Wilfried Nancy, Columbus is seeking its third MLS Cup, having lifted the trophy in 2008 and 2020. 

The Crew finished the MLS regular season by losing just two of their final 11 games (6W-2L-3D), seizing the third seed in the Eastern Conference. The Crew defeated Atlanta United FC, Orlando City SC, and Supporters’ Shield winners FC Cincinnati en route to Saturday’s final. 

Colombian international and designated player Cucho Hernández is the club’s top-scoring threat, having recorded 23 goals and 16 assists across all competitions in 2023. 

Cucho’s fellow DP, winger Diego Rossi, will face off against his former club for the first time since he departed LAFC for Turkish side Fenerbahçe S.K. in 2021. Rossi returned to MLS during the 2023 summer transfer window, signing with Columbus in early August. The Uruguayan international, who was on LAFC’s original roster in 2018, scored the first goal in Club history, and played in LA for three-and-a-half seasons, became the youngest Golden Boot winner in MLS history when he scored a league-best 14 goals for LAFC during the shortened 2020 season. 

Striker and southern California native Christian Ramirez, who scored the game-winner in the conference final against FC Cincinnati, played for LAFC in 2018 and 2019, scoring six goals in 24 appearances.

The Black & Gold Will Win If

it can get comfortable in the 40-degree temperatures that are expected in central Ohio on Saturday. (“I think it's gonna be quite nice,” LAFC midfielder Kellyn Acosta said on Tuesday. “Having that crisp air is gonna be nice. We felt the air in Seattle [in the conference semifinal] and it was crisp and it was good.”)

If the weather doesn’t bother LAFC, Columbus’ attack might. Columbus scored an MLS-best 67 goals during the regular season by breaking down back lines with extra passes deep in the penalty area. To this point in the playoffs LAFC has succeeded in minimizing opponents’ chances, posting three straight clean sheets, but Columbus presents a different challenge. 

Scoring the game’s first goal remains important for LAFC, which has not lost an MLS game this season in which it scored the opener (16W-0L-3T). Gaining a 1-0 advantage figures to be even more important in a final.

Columbus Crew Can Win If

it continues its stunning run of home-field success. Columbus has lost just one of its last 29 home matches, in all competitions, dating back to August 2022 (20 wins, eight draws). 

To claim the Cup, the Crew must unlock an LAFC defense that has not conceded a goal in its last 367 minutes of play, dating back to the 40th minute of the club’s 5-2 win over Vancouver in Round One.

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