1997 Club by Club
The Crew kicked off its second season in March of 1997. Another up-and-down season saw The Crew advance to the Eastern Conference Finals, where it fell to D.C. United, which went on to claim its second MLS Cup title in as many seasons. New to the team in 1997 were U.S. National Team regulars Thomas Dooley and Mike Lapper. Along with Brad Friedel, they formed the backbone of one of the league's top defenses. The Crew completed the first two months of the season in first place, before a mid-season slide knocked it to fourth.
Consistent with the team's hard-working image, Columbus was able lo rebound late in the year, placing it in playoff contention. As the playoff race intensified, so did the Crew's play, as Coach Fitzgerald's squad captured victories in three of its final four games. The late run vaulted Columbus into third place in the Eastern Conference, up one spot from its finish in 1996.
The Crew's first-round series was to rematch of the previous year, but the result was dramatically different. The Crew turned the tables on the second-seeded Mutiny, gaining a measure of revenge for their first-round defeat in 1996 with a two-game sweep of Tampa Bay.
The upset gave the Crew its first ever playoff series victory and set the stage for the Eastern Conference Finals against D.C. United.
The Conference Finals were a different story, as defending champ United put an end to the Crew’s second MLS campaign, winning the series 2 games to 0.