Columbus Crew SC shelled out reportedly north of $7 million to land Lucas Zelarayan from Tigres UANL in the offseason with the expectation the Argentine playmaker would deliver in the biggest of moments.
Zelarayan proved he was worth every penny spent of that club record transfer fee Saturday night, earning MLS Cup MVP presented by Audi honors with two goals and an assist to help lead the Crew to a second MLS Cup title in club history.
While so much of the talk leading up to the game was about the difference makers Columbus were missing in Darlington Nagbe and Pedro Santos, the Crew took took the game to the Sounders in the opening half and Zelarayan led that charge.
The 28-year-old Designated Player opened the scoring in the 25th minute, latching onto a sensational Harrison Afful cross and firing a first-time shot from the edge of the six-yard box in off Stefan Frei’s left hand.
Watch: Lucas Zelarayan opens the scoring in MLS Cup 2020
GOAL: Lucas Zelarayán, Columbus Crew SC - 25th minute
After drawing a yellow card on Joao Paulo following a filthy megging of the Brazilian defensive midfielder, Zelarayan then set up Derrick Etienne to double the Crew’s lead in the 31st minute.
Zelarayan intercepted a failed headed Shane O’Neill clearance, had the space to go fo goal, but slipped a pass to Etienne, who fired low and inside the far post.
Zelarayan sets up Derrick Etienne to give Crew SC a 2-0 lead
GOAL: Derrick Etienne, Columbus Crew SC - 31st minute
Zelarayan put the finishing touches on his masterclass with his second goal of the match in the 82nd minute, taking a settling touch before a clinical top-corner finish.
Watch: Zelarayan adds his second goal of MLS Cup 2020
GOAL: Lucas Zelarayán, Columbus Crew SC - 82nd minute
Zelarayan is the third Argentine to win MLS Cup MVP, following Guillermo Barros Schelotto, who did so for the Crew in their 2008 MLS Cup win and Diego Valeri, who won the award for the Portland Timbers against Columbus at MAPFRE Stadium in 2015.
When Zelarayan first landed in Columbus and was greeted by many in the Nordecke as he stepped off a private jet in January, he had a simple message for Crew SC fans who met him there.
“I choose Columbus,” he said to rapturous applause from the supporters.
What a choice that was, both for Zelarayan and the Columbus Crew.