Columbus Crew goes up 2-1 over Monterrey in Concacaf Champions Cup semifinals

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The Columbus Crew lead Mexican powerhouse Monterrey 2-1 on aggregate in the Concacaf Champions Cup semifinals after Wednesday’s opening match of the two-leg, total-goals-wins series.

Crew striker Cucho Hernandez scored in the first half in Ohio’s capital, only for Los Rayados’ veteran Maximiliano Meza to equalize midway through the second. But the Crew got another from Canadian national team striker Jacen Russell-Rowe with 18 minutes of regular time left to play, and they made the goal stand up as the game winner. 

The decisive rematch between the two teams will be played south of the border next week. The series winner will face either Club América or fellow Liga MX side Pachuca — which tied 1-1 after Tuesday’s opener in Mexico City — in the June 2 finale at the home of the highest remaining seed.  

Here are a few quick thoughts following Wednesday’s stalemate in Columbus.  

Play of the game

The slick-passing Crew enjoyed the bulk of possession all night, and they used it to great advantage on Cucho’s strike. Hernandez started the sequence with a clever give-and-go with Russell-Rowe, who controlled the ball and then sent a brilliant return pass to the Colombian international. Hernandez opened up Monterrey keeper Esteban Andrada with a deft touch to his right before expertly sliding the finish across his body and into the just-vacated opposite corner of the net. 

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Turning point

Columbus could’ve folded when Meza canceled out their early and well-deserved lead. The visitors had all the momentum after a lightning quick counterattacked ended with an unmarked Meza knocking the tying goal home past Crew keeper Patrick Schulte at the back post: 

Instead, the hosts’ resolve seemed to deepen, even if the payoff didn’t come right away. The go-ahead goal from Russell-Rowe arrived about 15 minutes later. 

Key stat

The numbers don’t lie: the Crew was the better team by just about every available metric, including shots, on-goal shots, passes, passing accuracy and possession. But the one-goal advantage is the only thing that matters heading into next week’s return leg, even if they did give up a potentially tie-breaking away goal.

Columbus survived Tigres in the last round despite not winning the first leg, becoming the only MLS team ever to win a shootout in Mexico along the way. Now any tie other than a scoreless one would be enough for them move on. Crew coach Wilfried Nancy & Co. will gladly take that deal. 

What’s next for Columbus? 

Nancy will welcome his former club, CF Montreal, to Lower.com field in MLS action on Saturday. Columbus, which trails Eastern Conference leader Inter Miami by four points, is three points clear of the Canadian club after nine league matches played in 2024. 

What’s next for Monterrey?

Los Rayados, who sit fourth in the Liga MX Clausura standings, travel to Necaxa on Sunday for a league match against Liga MX’s eighth place team — which trials Monterrey by just a single point after 16 rounds of play.

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Don’t expect that to stop coach Fernando Ortiz from resting most of his preferred starting 11 to make sure they’re ready for the all-important Champions Cup rematch next Wednesday at Estadio BBVA. Last weekend, Ortiz sat five regulars for an eventual 2-0 defeat at Club León.

Doug McIntyre is a soccer writer for FOX Sports. Before joining FOX Sports in 2021, he was a staff writer with ESPN and Yahoo Sports and he has covered United States men’s and women’s national teams at multiple FIFA World Cups. Follow him on Twitter @ByDougMcIntyre.


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