|Date||November 23, 2008|
|Venue||Home Depot Center, Carson, California, US|
|Man of the Match||Guillermo Barros Schelotto (Columbus Crew)|
|Weather||Clear 68 °F (20 °C)|
MLS Cup 2008 was the final match of the 2008 Major League Soccer season, and the 13th championship awarded by MLS. The match took place on Sunday, November 23, 2008, at the Home Depot Center in Carson, California, between the Columbus Crew and New York Red Bulls. MLS Cup 2008 was the only final in which two Eastern Conference teams met, and the first time since 1996 that both teams made their MLS Cup final debut in the same match. Columbus won the game by a score of 3-1 with goals from Alejandro Moreno, Chad Marshall, and Frankie Hejduk -- all assisted by Guillermo Barros Schelotto. Schelotto was named man of the match, adding to his MVP award from the regular season. The Crew became the fourth club to win both MLS Cup and the Supporters' Shield in the same season, following D.C. United (1997, 1999), Sporting Kansas City (2000), and Los Angeles Galaxy (2002).
Both the participants qualified for the 2009-10 CONCACAF Champions League, with winners Columbus Crew being seeded directly into the group stage and runners-up New York Red Bulls entering at the preliminary round.
The home stadium of Los Angeles Galaxy and the now-defunct Chivas USA, it previously hosted the 2003 MLS All-Star Game and MLS Cup final in 2003 and 2004. The stadium and its surrounding training fields were built in 2003 and frequently host the United States Men's and Women's national teams due to the quality of the facilities and favorable weather throughout the year. Most notably, the Home Depot Center hosted the final of the 2003 FIFA Women's World Cup.
|Conference Semifinals||Conference Finals||MLS Cup 2008|
|E4||Kansas City Wizards||1||0|
|E3||New England Revolution||0||0|
|W4||New York Red Bulls||1|
|W4||New York Red Bulls||1||3|
|W4||New York Red Bulls||1|
|W3||Real Salt Lake||0|
|W3||Real Salt Lake||1||2|
1 New York represented the fourth seed in the Western Conference playoff bracket, as only three teams in the Western Conference qualified for the playoffs on a consolidated league table.
Managed by Sigi Schmid, Columbus proved their quality throughout the regular season, claiming the Supporters' Shield on 57 points. The Crew met Kansas City in the first round of the MLS Cup Playoffs, drawing 1-1 on an added time goal from Steven Lenhart. The return leg at Crew Stadium one week later saw goals from youngsters Brad Evans and Robbie Rogers propel the club into the Eastern Conference final, defeating Kansas City 2-0.
The next round pitted Columbus against rivals Chicago Fire in a single-game knockout stage. After 29 minutes, former Columbus man Brian McBride made the score 1-0 to Chicago on a close-range header that looped high over keeper Will Hesmer. In the second half, Guillermo Barros Schelotto's free kick from the right wing found a leaping Chad Marshall, whose header deflected off the underside of the crossbar and equalized the match at 1-1. After dominating the next few minutes, Eddie Gaven found himself with the ball inside Chicago's penalty box. Gaven squared up the volley and slotted it home past a diving Jon Busch to send Columbus through to the MLS Cup final.
2008 was a tumultuous year for the Red Bulls, who earned a playoff berth with only 39 points on the final day of the regular season. Despite mediocre play throughout the majority of the campaign, New York bested defending champions Houston Dynamo in the first round on a 4-1 aggregate scoreline. In the Western Conference Final against Real Salt Lake, Dave van der Bergh's 28th-minute goal proved the difference, even as RSL's chances rattled the New York goalposts on three separate occasions. Even though they had lost some players to drug suspensions and were the final team to qualify, the Red Bulls largely survived all the way to Los Angeles due to the timely play of Juan Pablo Ángel and the emergence of backup goalkeeper Danny Cepero. Their inspired play under the leadership of manager Juan Carlos Osorio guided the club through to its first MLS Cup final.
The 2008 Final debuted a new award for the champions, renamed the Philip F. Anschutz Trophy. Previous MLS champions were presented with one of two versions of the Alan I. Rothenberg Trophy, which was retired after MLS Cup 2007. The new, iconic design was more reminiscent of a traditional cup, with the winners allowed to wear a scudetto badge the next season, similar to the Italian tradition.
Both teams were allowed their home kits for the final, due to the contrast in strip colors. Columbus chose to wear its traditional all-gold look, with New York donning home whites on red shorts. A commemorative badge featuring the MLS Cup 2008 logo was worn by both clubs.
Though Columbus were the favored side going into the match, the Red Bulls dominated the first twenty minutes of play. John Wolyniec and Juan Pablo Ángel were gifted excellent scoring opportunities by the overwhelmed Crew defense, but were unable to finish their chances in the early going. Columbus' first opportunity arrived in the 31st minute, as Guillermo Barros Schelotto found Alejandro Moreno in space along the right flank. One on one against Diego Jiménez, the Venezuelan deftly used his speed to beat the New York defender and rolled the ball past Danny Cepero to open the scoring 1-0 to Columbus.
The second half opened with the Red Bulls pushing hard to equalize. Red Bulls midfielder Dane Richards wove through large gaps in the Columbus defense and played through to a sliding Wolyniec who leveled the score after 51 minutes. The underdogs' exuberance would be short-lived, however. The Crew earned a corner within a minute of the restart, and Schelotto's kick was driven into goal by Chad Marshall, with a header reminiscent of Columbus' playoff victory against Chicago. Sigi Schmid's men continued to press their advantage, with a long attempt by Schelotto deflecting off the crossbar in the process. The pressure was ultimately too much for New York, as the insurance goal for Columbus arrived in the 81st minute of play. Schelotto notched his third assist of the match by brilliantly flicking the ball into the Red Bulls' penalty box and finding Frankie Hejduk cutting in behind the defense.
New York Red Bulls
Man of the Match: