COLUMBUS, Ohio -- By virtue of their superior goal differential during the regular season, Columbus Crew SC hosted the Portland Timbers in the 2015 MLS Cup on Sunday night.
This inherently made them the favorites, as five of the previous six teams to host MLS Cup have won. That's also not to mention the fact that Crew SC had won each of their last three home games by a combined score of 10-1.
But in the end, the Timbers hoisted the Philip F. Anschutz Trophy on Crew SC's home turf, MAPFRE Stadium.
“It’s difficult,” said head coach Gregg Berhalter. “Obviously we wanted to bring a championship to this city and we wanted them to see it firsthand in our stadium, and it’s disappointing.
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“I’m sorry to the people of Columbus that we couldn’t bring them a championship,” he continued. “We couldn’t bring them that trophy, but they deserve it.”
Crew SC have won MLS Cup once before, in 2008, but their celebration then occurred at the StubHub Center in Carson, California.
The crowd was raucous at MAPFRE Stadium with most of the Nordecke in place an hour before kickoff.
Unfortunately for them, the Timbers were able to land a shot across the bow just 27 seconds in, as Diego Valeri took advantage of a Steve Clark gaffe to give Portland a 1-0 lead. The goal was the fastest in MLS Cup history.
Just six minutes later, Portland added a second goal and fans' frustration boiled over. They pelted the celebrating Timbers players with beer cans.
Kei Kamara scored in the 18th minute to cut the lead in half but Columbus were unable to find the all-important equalizer.
Captain Michael Parkhurst remarked on the fans trying to get the club back in the game.
“They tried to give us a lift in the second half. I could hear it,” said Parkhurst. “We just didn’t give them enough to cheer about tonight, that’s our fault.”
Local product Wil Trapp was left standing on the field and watching the Timbers celebrate after the final whistle.
“It was terrible. But, at the same time, you look around and see the support that we had, the fans were excellent tonight," he said. "I can’t say enough good things about them. But it hurts, it really hurts.”
Despite the disappointment of the loss, there is plenty of hope for Crew SC.
Star striker Kei Kamara has shown no signs of aging despite entering his early thirties, while 25-year-old Ethan Finlay has shown massive improvement every year he has been in MLS. Trapp, for his part, is developing into one of the best players at his position in the league.
After congratulating Portland and explaining his disappointment on the loss, Berhalter added in at least a little hope for the faithful Crew SC fanbase.
“We’ll be back though," he said. "This team will be back.”