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How the Columbus Crew won MLS Cup with “maestro” Wilfried Nancy leading the way

The Crew played Nancy's way against LAFC. And it paid off.

5 min read
Design: Peyton Gallaher

COLUMBUS, Ohio — When Giorgio Chiellini talks, you listen. And when Giorgio Chiellini calls someone a “maestro”, well, they probably are.

“They have a fantastic teacher, or maestro if you prefer to call it,” the legendary Italian center back said of the Crew before Saturday’s MLS Cup between Columbus and LAFC. Before signing with LAFC in 2022, Chiellini spent more than a decade dominating for Juventus against the world’s best teams. He knows better than most what makes those teams tick.

“That is coach [Wilfried] Nancy.”

The French manager arrived in North America in 2005, coming “to Montréal with my backpack". Over the past few seasons, Nancy has become the most highly regarded coach in MLS, leading CF Montreal to a second-place finish in the Eastern Conference last year and now taking the Columbus Crew to a trophy.

It was in front of the Columbus faithful at Field that the Crew won their latest MLS Cup. And they did it playing Nancy’s way. 

They followed their 46-year-old coach's tactical blueprint, taking a 2-0 lead before halftime and seeing out the game with a 2-1 victory. Columbus did just about everything they could to prove Chiellini right, about both their manager and themselves — “their style of play is unbelievable, it’s incredible,” the 39-year-old said — and now they have a third MLS Cup to show for it.

Here’s how the Crew became the 2023 MLS Cup champions.

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