On Saturday, Columbus will play host to quite a clash as MLS Cup comes to town for the first time since 2020 when the Columbus Crew defeated the Seattle Sounders 3-0. To win again, the Crew will have to knock off last year's champions Los Angeles FC. Both teams have quite a lot in common, and while the advantage of experience certainly is on the side of the Black and Gold, they'll need to overcome their struggles away from home in order to lift consecutive cups. LAFC lifted the trophy in front of their home faithful last year and not only will they be in a hostile environment now, but they will be without some of their most passionate supporters as well. 

After displays that included flares in the Western Conference final against the Houston Dynamo, the LAFC supporters group 3252 will be restricted during MLS Cup. While that is quite vague and doesn't say that they'll be officially banned from attending the affair, it could make it harder for the Black and Gold to make their presence felt in the match.

No one has repeated as MLS Champion since 2012 when the LA Galaxy accomplished the feat. which would make it quite impressive indeed for Steve Cherundolo's LAFC to pull it off as they've been one of the best teams in the league after joining as an expansion side. Both teams have a lot in common, with balanced midfields and forwards that can hurt you, which is what will make this an interesting tactical battle.

Midfield is key

After missing the 2020 MLS Cup due to COVID, Darlington Nagbe will have a chance to make up for that and lead the Crew to their second championship in three years. That 2020 miss turned out to also be an opportunity for Aidan Morris. The young midfielder started in place of Nagbe in that MLS Cup final, prior to breaking in and becoming a regular for the Crew. Now, two of the first names on the team sheet, Morris and Nagbe help provide a flexible pivot for the attackers in front of them to play off of. They'll need to use all of their guile to get past LAFC's midfield three as Kellyn Acosta, Ilie Sanchez, and Timmy Tillman all complement each other well.

Ilie is the most defensive-minded of the three, but all of them will happily take turns sitting back and diving into tackles. But then Acosta brings threats from set plays while Tillman is a true box to box midfielder. It's a balance that helps the Black and Gold's forwards run free, but if the trio can't get past Morris and Nagbe, this game could quickly become one way traffic.

Which forward reign's supreme

With over 60 goal contributions between Cucho Hernandez for Columbus and Denis Bouanga for LAFC, there is some serious forward firepower in the match, but don't forget that Carlos Vela is still roaming the pitch for LAFC too. While Vela has taken more of a backseat this season to Bouanga's free scoring, he's still quite dangerous and if left unmarked can change the game. But the Crew also have a former LAFC man on their side too in Diego Rossi. Added to help fill the void of Lucas Zelerayan's departure to Saudi Arabia, Rossi has shined since joining and now has a chance to defeat his former team -- and technically his replacement in Bouanga -- to lift the cup.

How to watch and odds

  • Date: Saturday, Dec. 9 | Time: 4 p.m. ET
  • Location: Lower.com Field -- Columbus, Ohio
  • TV: FOX  | Live stream: MLS Season Pass
  • Odds: Columbus Crew +115; Draw +240; LAFC +230