Columbus capture first MLS title

Frankie Hejduk and Chad Marshall each scored second-half goals on Sunday to lift Columbus Crew past the New York Red Bulls 3-1 to capture the 2008 Major League Soccer championship. Both clubs were charter members of the league when it debuted in 1996, but neither had ever reached the MLS Cup playoff title match before.

Venezuelan striker Alejandro Moreno, who led the Crew with nine goals this season, scored in the 31st minute, his kick from the right side deflecting off the hands of diving goalkeeper Danny Cepero and just inside the far goalpost. Cepero became the first goalkeeper in MLS history to score a goal when he bounced in an 80-meter effort last month in a regular-season win over the Crew.

New York's John Wolyniec equalized in the 51st minute, but fellow American Marshall, the MLS Defender of the Year, answered in the 53rd minute to put the Crew back on top. Guillermo Barros Schelotto, the Argentine midfielder named the MLS Most Valuable Player this year with seven goals and 19 assists, made crucial passes to set up all three Columbus goals but saved his best for last.

Five minutes after slamming a 20-metre shot off the crossbar, Schelotto lofted a lob over two defenders to the head of American Frankie Hejduk as he rushed into the penalty area in the 82nd minute. The American nodded the ball over Cepero and it rolled across the line for the clinching goal.

The Crew had the best regular-season record in the league, and became the first regular-season leader to capture the MLS crown since the Los Angeles Galaxy in 2002.

Columbus wrote a disappointing end to New York's fairytale season, the Red Bulls qualifying for the last playoff spot before upsetting 2007 champions Houston, and overcoming Real Salt Lake in the semi-final.

Crew goalkeeper William Hesmer, who had 10 shutouts and a league-best 17 victories this season, celebrated the triumph on his 27th birthday.