The final moment in our "Road to the Cup" series could be explained in a matter of seconds. Nine seconds, to be exact. Columbus Crew SC led the New York Red Bulls in the Eastern Conference Championship for all but nine seconds of the two-leg series.
It was No. 9, midfielder Justin Meram, who set a new record, scoring the fastest goal in MLS Cup Playoffs history. The previous record-holder was also a former Columbus player, Adrian Paz, who scored within 26 seconds. Meram’s goal gave the Black & Gold the early lead in the First Leg and set the tone for the entire series.
While New York stuck to its high press for the entire series, Crew SC was willing and able to adapt its playing style in the fight for the Eastern Conference title. Columbus won the midfield battle with the Red Bulls, proved to be productive on the counterattack and finished its chances.
The Black & Gold handed the Red Bulls their first shutout since May, crushing their hopes of notching an away goal. Crew SC shut down Bradley Wright-Phillips and flustered the ordinarily imposing midfield triangle of Sacha Kljestan, Dax McCarty and Felipe.
In front of the first playoff sellout crowd in club history, Columbus went with the ebbs and flows of the match. From the first whistle to the last, the Black & Gold managed New York’s intensity and pressure while executing their game plan.
As time wound down, striker Kei Kamara notched his first goal against the Eastern Conference opponent this year and his third of the postseason. Cedrick Mabwati took on five defenders with his fresh legs, blasted a shot at Luis Robles, and Kamara was there to tap in the deflection.
In showing its ability to shutdown the Supporters’ Shield winners and the highest-scoring MLS team of 2015, Crew SC displayed its championship-caliber play. That performance set the Black & Gold up to clinch the East and compete in the 2015 MLS Cup.