When oddsmakers first set a line for the MLS Cup Final, the Columbus Crew and the Seattle Sounders rated as equals heading into the championship match. But the realities of the COVID-19 pandemic have hit the Crew hard during the postseason, leaving the hosts in a difficult position heading into Saturday’s game.
Columbus will play without midfielders Darlington Nagbe and Pedro Santos, as the team declared both “medically not cleared to play” on Thursday night.
COVID-19 Ravages MLS in 2020
The Crew announced that one player had tested positive for COVID-19 this week. Because of privacy laws, Columbus can’t say which players had been impacted by that result.
But the club has suffered due to a COVID-19 outbreak throughout the MLS playoffs. A number of Columbus players had previously tested positive for the coronavirus earlier in the postseason, and the Crew announced that seven of those players had either resumed training or would be able to do so in the near future.
Still, the loss of both Nagbe and Santos will hurt. Nagbe tweeted on Friday to say that he had tested positive for COVID-19, though he emphasized that he was feeling well.
— Darlington Nagbe (@darlingtonnagbe) December 11, 2020
“I tested positive for COVID and currently have no symptoms. My family and myself are feeling well, which is more important,” Nagbe wrote. “After such a long and tough season, I’m gutted to not be able to play in the final on Saturday with the team.”
|MLS Cup Final Odds (via DraftKings Sportsbook)|
|Columbus Crew: +175||Draw: +230||Seattle Sounders: +150|
The MLS Players Association announced Thursday that “almost 20 percent” of players in the league contracted COVID-19 over the course of the season.
“The impact of [the pandemic] is probably deeper than what we expected,” MLS commissioner Don Garber said during his State of the League address on Tuesday. “I’m hopeful that 2021 will be a way better year than 2020, because I don’t think any business could sustain the kind of impact that we sustained in 2020 for two years in a row.”
Three Stars Lead Sounders to MLS Cup Final
With Columbus reeling from the loss of multiple players, Seattle has taken the role of favorite for the MLS Cup Final. DraftKings now lists the visiting Sounders as a +150 pick to win in regulation, with Columbus at +175.
Seattle has earned its opportunity at back-to-back MLS Cup titles behind a trio of stars in Raul Ruidiaz, Jordan Morris, and Nico Lodeiro. The league named all three to the MLS Best XI, as hey continue to power a lethal attack.
“It’s not magic,” Seattle head coach Brian Schmetzer told The Seattle Times. “The one thing that they have in common is their commitment to the team and their teammates. That’s what makes them so strong. All three are humble and they will all tell you that they’d trade that Best XI award away for another MLS Cup.”
Seattle came back from a 2-0 deficit with 15 minutes left to play in the Western Conference final against Minnesota United. Three late goals – including one by Ruidiaz – allowed the Sounders to win 3-2 in regulation and keep their hopes alive for a second straight title.