As the players waited for the moment they dreamt of all season, they yelled and jumped, shaking the small platform they were all gathered on.
Soon, the stage bounced so much that the trophy needed to be lifted off its display prematurely to ensure it wouldn’t fall.
That was the setting 15 minutes after Saturday afternoon’s triumphant 4-1 Crew 2 win in the MLS NEXT Pro Cup against St Louis CITY2. The Capybaras, who dominated the league throughout the regular season, once again proved they were the inaugural league’s best team, and they were deservedly celebrating their monumental achievement.
Once it was time to hoist the trophy, fireworks and confetti filled the sky inside Lower.com Field, as supporters roared and soaked up the moment.
Truthfully, this was a moment Crew 2 probably started thinking about at halftime. After a scoreless first 44 minutes of play, Isaiah Parente fired the home side in front in the 45th minute when he converted his penalty kick.
Three minutes later in first-half stoppage time, captain Marco Micaletto gave Crew 2 a two-goal lead when his cross into the box was directed more toward goal than a teammate, and the ball slipped under the St. Louis goalkeeper.
Eventually, the MLS NEXT Pro leading scorer got his name in the box score, too. In the 58th minute, Jacen Russel-Rowe converted the club’s second penalty.
The visitors scored a consolation goal in the 80th, but Ryan Telfer sealed the 4-1 win three minutes later when he smashed a shot toward the back post.
All that was left was playing out the remaining minutes of the match before the Capybaras etched their names in history.
“It’s unreal,” head coach Laurent Courtois said at the final whistle. “We built a (strong) team, the club put in so much resources to make it work … unbelievable.”
The captain, who was name the championship game’s MVP offered similar sentiments.
“It’s hard to put into words what this means for myself, for this team and for the community,” Micaletto said. “You can’t describe it. It’s amazing.”
And the Capybaras had an amazing season.
After losing the club’s first-ever match, it rattled of wins in its next six. That set the tone for the remainder of the regular season, as Crew 2 finished with a six-point gap over CITY2 to become the league’s outright champions.
The postseason was certainly an adventure, as the Capybara’s played out a thrilling 4-3 win over Toronto FC after extra time in the Eastern Conference Final. That match ended up being the most competitive one, though, as Columbus controlled the cup final Saturday afternoon.
The Columbus Crew 2 approach their inaugural season by investing in a good squad, good players and a good front office. What followed was the best team in the league hoisting the first MLS NEXT Pro Cup trophy.
There can only be one first-ever champion. It’s fitting that a side with four of the league’s Best XI players were the ones bouncing on the stage after the last whistle of 2022.
CINEMATIC RECAP | MLS NEXT PRO CUP | Columbus Crew 2: 4, St Louis CITY2: 1