Columbus Crew boss Wilfried Nancy compared MLS Cup playoffs to the world’s most prestigious club competition, the UEFA Champions League, after his side’s 2-1 triumph over CF Montreal.
On the surface, it might look like a crazy comment to make by comparing MLS playoffs to the Champions League, but Nancy does have a point.
“For me, [MLS Cup] playoffs, this is Champions League in Europe,” Nancy said after the game. “I see it like this, sometimes this is not the best team who wins so it depends. We’ll see.”
While Real Madrid have dominated the European competition over the past decade, since their 2017/18 triumph over Liverpool, four different clubs have won the title. In MLS Cup playoffs, we have seen before that anything can happen; a club has not won consecutive titles since LA Galaxy in 2011 and 2012.
The win against Montreal saw Columbus clinch a third place finish in the Eastern Conference table with 57 points, as goals from Cucho Hernandez and Darlington Nagbe propelled the team to victory. The Crew’s run since their Leagues Cup exit has been nothing short of impressive, as they’ve lost just twice since while racking up six wins to round out their regular season.
“It’s a really good moment, a really good moment because they achieved the challenge that we gave them,” said Nancy. “Yes, to finish third, but also to grow. This is what they did. When I see this kind of game tonight, we should have scored more goals – we didn’t score all the goals that we wanted – but we finished the game in a good way.
“I’m really happy for the players, I’m really happy for the organization because it’s a pleasure to work with them. They accept the way I am as a coach but with my staff also and the way we try to push them all the time, and I think that this is a good reward and they deserve it,” he said. “Really happy also for the fans because they’ve been unbelievable – unbelievable.”
Columbus finished the regular season 67 goals scored in MLS, the most in the league. The Crew have showed they can compete with the league’s best while also playing an exciting, entertaining style of soccer that has so far worked out for them.
The Crew are back in action on November 1 for game one of a best-of-three series against Atlanta United at Lower.com Field. Both teams are eager to play on the front foot with a distinctive style, something that was on display in the 1-1 draw on October 7 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
“Tonight, the way we finished the game, for me it’s a fact that we grew,” said Nancy. “I congratulate them [the players] for that because soccer wise, we know that we can do good things, but the consistency was better. For me, it’s been our journey for the MLS season, and now we’re going to start a new journey with the playoffs.”
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