May 22, 2024

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Columbus Crew reach Champions League final: Takeaways from crushing win over Monterrey

Columbus Crew reach Champions League final: Takeaways from crushing win over Monterrey

The Columbus Crew will have a chance to become the second MLS team to win the CONCACAF Champions Cup.

Aidan Morris scored a vital goal before half-time, substitute Alexandru Matin provided an assist for Diego Rossi just four minutes into the second half, and Jacen Russell Rowe added the exclamation point in the 89th minute to seal a 3-1 win over United. Road in Monterrey and win 5-2 on aggregate.

Columbus will now face Pachuca in the final on June 2 (Update: The match has been rescheduled for June 1, due to national elections being held in Mexico on June 2 and Pachuca being the host of the final). The trophy serves as a stake, as well as a spot, in next summer's FIFA Club World Cup in the United States

The Crew went into Mexico with a 2-1 lead after winning the first leg last week. Monterrey equalized and took the advantage in the series when they first scored an own goal after Maxi Meza's ball bounced off the underside of the crossbar and bounced into the legs of Evgen Chibirko and into the back of the net.

But Columbus equalized with what was essentially the final kick of the first half when Monterrey goalkeeper Esteban Andrada made a critical error, passing a pass to a teammate that allowed Morris to sneak in and open the pocket, then dribble towards the penalty area and eventually beat Andrada out of position inside the post. near.

The goal changed the course of the game, and in the end, thanks to two second-half goals, Columbus lifted the win and a chance at another title.

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Multilateral rescue

When Inter Miami was eliminated by Monterrey in the previous round, MLS's performance in the tournament screamed of the gap that still exists between the top teams in the two leagues. After 14 matches against Liga MX teams, MLS had a goal differential of -23 and zero wins.

But one Major League Soccer team still has a way to go to the Cup. Columbus produced one of the best performances by an MLS team on the road in Mexico in CONCACAF Championship history with a decisive win over Rayados. They are now just one win away from salvaging this year's MLS CONCACAF Champions Cup.

With a win over Pachuca, Columbus will become the second MLS team to win the tournament after the 2022 Seattle Sounders, who defeated the Pumas in the final.

It will also add another great chapter to the story of the Columbus Crew, which was about to move to Austin, Texas before being saved by fans and the #SaveTheCrew movement. Since then, Columbus has won two MLS Cups, and now it will have the opportunity to revive the league's standing in the region during a poor showing in the tournament.

Nancy pulls the right strings

Columbus has captivated fans with the way it plays, perhaps no greater influence than that of head coach Wilfried Nancy.

Coming from Montreal prior to the 2023 season, Nancy has brought a clear confidence and security to this Columbus team. They know who they are, how they want to play, and how to approach games. And Nancy seems to know the right moves to make.

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Last year in the MLS Playoffs, it was second-half substitutions that brought the Crew back from a two-goal deficit and led them to an eventual 3-2 victory and qualification to the MLS Cup Final. This time, Nancy made another change that paid off immediately and secured a place in the CONCACAF Champions Cup final.

Morris' goal before half-time changed the course of the match. Columbus no longer has to chase the game and look for a goal. Now, they lead by one goal on aggregate and were in the driver's seat in the tie. Nancy took off Marino Hinestroza at the break and was substituted in Matin. Columbus no longer has to worry as much about going out on the break. They can try to control the game more. Matin then played the pass to split Rossi between the Monterrey centre-backs and allowed his goal to decide the score.

Russell Rowe did not start after playing a key role in the first leg, where he assisted in the opener and scored the winner, but the 21-year-old Canadian came on in the 85th minute and slotted home again. His last-minute goal gave Columbus a decisive win, both in Monterrey and overall in the series.

Nancy has established himself as the best coach in Major League Soccer, and now he will have the opportunity to win a continental title to add to his achievements.

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Pachuca is waiting for us

The format of the CONCACAF Champions Cup final will be different than in recent years, changing from a home-and-away final to a single-leg match in Pachuca.

This will be another tough showing for Columbus, but so far in this tournament, the Crew has gone to Tigres and Monterrey and found a way to get results. The win over Monterrey marked the first time an MLS team had beaten a Mexican team on the road in a CONCACAF semifinal.

Pachuca currently sits seventh in the Liga MX Apertura standings after a run of four defeats in five matches from March 9 to April 13, but they have never lost at home in a CONCACAF Champions League match and are likely to be favorites at home again.

Pachuca beat Club America in the semifinals, and earlier in the tournament beat Philadelphia Union 6-0 in the second leg at Hidalgo Stadium.

(Photo: Alfredo Lopez/Jam Media/Getty Images)