Columbus Crew Advances to Champions Cup Final in Black & Gold Glory

The Columbus Crew stunned CF Monterrey in Mexico, advancing to the CONCACAF Champions Cup final with a 3-1 victory on the night and a 5-2 aggregate score. They are the first MLS team to defeat Monterrey in a knockout series and will face Pachuca in the final.

The Columbus Crew secured their first-ever Concacaf Champions Cup Final berth by defeating CF Monterrey 3-1 in the CCC Semifinals' second leg in Nuevo León, Mexico, on a really late Wednesday night. This victory sealed a 5-2 aggregate win for the Crew, following a memorable 2-1 triumph at LDC Field. Monterrey had previously lost only twice to MLS clubs in 18 Concacaf Champions Cup matches before facing consecutive defeats against Columbus.

The Crew's unbeaten streak against LIGA MX sides under head coach Wilfried Nancy stands at 3-2-0. With a record of (3-3-0) in the 2024 Concacaf Champions Cup, the Crew remain focused on qualifying for the 2025 Club World Cup, striving to elevate American soccer to new heights. This significant win against Monterrey further cements their status as a formidable presence in the soccer world.

The Conquest of Nuevo León

After eliminating Monterrey's cross-town rivals, UANL Tigres, the Crew took one step further and established their dominance in the region with yet another humiliation for the city's fans.

The Crew entered Mexico with a 2-1 lead after securing a victory in the home leg last week. Monterrey leveled the score and gained an advantage in the series when they scored first, with Maxi Meza's chip hitting the bottom of the crossbar and bouncing off Evgen Cheberko's legs into the net, ruled as an own goal.

However, Columbus found the equalizer with virtually the final kick of the first half. Monterrey goalkeeper Esteban Andrada made a critical mistake, rolling a pass to a teammate that allowed Morris to intercept and advance towards the box, ultimately beating an out-of-position Andrada inside the near post. This goal just before halftime was precisely what the Crew needed.

Columbus' Alexandru Matan came on as a second-half substitute and had an immediate impact, delivering a perfect pass to Rossi for a left-footed shot that extended the Crew's aggregate advantage. Jacen Russell-Rowe sealed Columbus' victory with a counterattack goal in the 89th minute, breaking through alone and chipping the ball past Andrada, who had come out to challenge him. Although Christian Ramirez had the chance to make it four on the night with a penalty awarded in the final kick of the game, it was saved. Nonetheless, the significance of the victory overshadowed any individual moments, as the team once again achieved the unthinkable in Mexico.

Punching our tickets to the final

The format of the CONCACAF Champions Cup final will be different from recent years, transitioning from a two-legged final to a single match hosted at Pachuca on June 2nd, rather than the original first of June date due to the Mexican election taking place. It poses another challenging task for Columbus; however, thus far in the tournament, the Crew has demonstrated resilience on the road against Tigres and Monterrey, securing favorable outcomes. The victory over Monterrey marked the first time an MLS team defeating a Mexican side away from home in a CONCACAF semifinal.

Pachuca currently holds the seventh position in the Liga MX Apertura standings, and have seen some rocky performances. Despite their recent struggles, they boast an undefeated home record in CONCACAF Champions matches and are likely to be the favorites once again.

Having triumphed over Club America in the semifinals and achieved a resounding 6-0 victory over the Philadelphia Union earlier in the tournament's second leg at the Estadio Hidalgo, Pachuca presents a formidable challenge. If the Crew manages to overcome Pachuca, they will not only be crowned champions of the region but will also secure a berth in the Club World Cup, slated to take place in the summer of 2025 in the United States.

Wilfried Nancy’s In-game management

The Columbus team has endeared themselves to fans with their style of play, and perhaps no one has had a greater impact than manager Wilfried Nancy. In last year's MLS Conference Final, it was Nancy's second-half substitutions that spurred the Crew to overcome a two-goal deficit, resulting in a 3-2 victory and a place in the MLS Cup final. Once again, Nancy's strategic change paid immediate dividends, securing a spot in the CCC final. Let's not forget the tactical adjustment that saw Columbus stun Tigres after a challenging first half.

Morris' crucial goal just before halftime altered the course of the game. With a one-goal lead on aggregate, Columbus no longer needed to chase the game; they were firmly in control. Nancy's halftime substitution of Marino Hinestroza for Matan allowed Columbus to focus more on controlling the game rather than relying solely on the counterattack. Matan's decisive pass to split Rossi through Monterrey's defense set up the sealing goal. Although Russell-Rowe didn't start despite his key role in the first leg—assisting in the opener and scoring the winner—the 21-year-old Canadian made a significant impact, finding the back of the net once again after coming on in the 85th minute. His late goal secured a decisive victory for Columbus, both in Monterrey and overall in the series.

Nancy has not only made waves in MLS but has also showcased his prowess in the continent's premier club competition with confidence and flair.