Wilfried Nancy is pretty good at this head coaching thing.
In a thrilling rubber match of the MLS Cup Playoffs first-round series between Nancy’s Columbus Crew and Atlanta United, Columbus secured their spot in the Eastern Conference semi-finals with a 4-2 victory over Atlanta United. The Crew wasted no time, scoring three goals within the first 33 minutes.
“I suffered in the last game, because I knew that my team was able to do better,” Nancy said post-game referring to Columbus’ loss in Game 2 in Atlanta. “But they didn’t act, because they were too focused on something that they cannot control. So the idea was to go back on that and they did it today. So I’m happy.”
Darlington Nagbe opened the scoring for Columbus in the ninth minute with an impressive unassisted goal, picking out the bottom right-hand corner of Brad Guzan’s net.
This marked Nagbe’s third career postseason goal and his second with the Crew.
Defender Malte Amundsen extended the lead to 2-0 just eight minutes later, scoring his first career playoff goal with a rocket of a shot and an assist from one-time CanMNT target Aidan Morris.
Speaking of Canadians, surprisingly, Nancy opted to bench key player Julian Gressel. Instead, Nancy handed a start to 23-year-old former Cavalry FC wing-back Mo Farsi, who had only made one start since August. This decision turned out to be a calculated risk that paid off.
Farsi proved his worth showcasing his skill and justifying the team’s decision. He completed 88 percent of his 42 passes. He showed his skill in dribbling, successfully completing 3 out of 4 attempts. Farsi also excelled in ground duels, winning 6 out of 8, and managed to draw two fouls. His standout performance limited the influence of Atlanta United winger Xande Silva and homegrown left-back Caleb Wiley.
Alexandru Matan then made it 3-0 in the 33rd minute, netting his first career postseason goal with assists from Diego Rossi and Cucho Hernández.
“I tell my team that we fear no one but we respect everyone,” said the former CF Montréal gaffer. “And for me, this is really important, that they stick to that. And today, this is what we did. We were really good to be front foot. We provoked the mistake, and after that, with the ball we were more clean. We could have scored more goals, obviously. But yeah, it was a really, really good game.”
Atlanta United managed to pull one back in the 35th minute, as Giorgos Giakoumakis scored with assists from Brooks Lennon and World Cup winner Thiago Almada. However, Columbus maintained their dominance as Rossi scored his first postseason goal for the Crew just two minutes into the second half, with Matan providing the assist. Xande Silva found the net for Atlanta United three minutes later, but it wasn’t enough to mount a comeback.
Columbus will now face Orlando City in the Conference semi-finals on November 25. FC Cincinnati will take on the Philadelphia Union in the other semi-final. The Crew’s victory extended their unbeaten streak at home in all competitions to 17 matches. They have also won seven straight home playoff games.