Columbus Crew Shocks Tigres UANL in Historic Battle at Monterrey, Mexico

On Tuesday evening, the Columbus Crew etched their names in MLS history by becoming the inaugural team to defeat Tigres UANL on their turf, securing passage to the CONCACAF Champions Cup semifinals.
Tigres v Columbus Crew - Concacaf Champions Cup 2024
Tigres v Columbus Crew - Concacaf Champions Cup 2024 / Azael Rodriguez/GettyImages

The Columbus Crew made history by becoming the first MLS team to secure an away victory in Mexico during CONCACAF Champions Cup action, despite not winning the home leg on Tuesday night. After a 1-1 draw in the initial home first leg match, the same outcome ensued on Tuesday evening. As both teams were tied on away goals, the match extended into extra time in search of a decisive victor. The result would remain the same after ET and the Black & Gold managed to kept their composure at the spot to beat the home side in Mexico.

A mistake by 23-year-old Columbus goalkeeper Patrick Schulte allowed Tigres legend André-Pierre Gignac to seize an early lead for the hosts within just three minutes at Estadio Universitario in Monterrey. With the Crew facing steep odds of advancing, they struggled to find their footing, particularly in the first half, where Nancy's side appeared notably disoriented. However, Diego Rossi's pivotal away goal leveled the aggregate scoreline at 2-2 shortly before the hour mark. The score remained unchanged throughout 30 minutes of extra time, leading to the tiebreaker.

Diego Rossi, Jacen Russell-Rowe, and Alex Matan all played key roles in converting successful penalties, while Max Arfsten ultimately clinched the victory with a decisive shot past Rodriguez. Although allowing scores on the final three penalty attempts, Crew goalkeeper Patrick Schulte's crucial saves in the initial tries proved instrumental in securing the historic win.

From Zero to Hero - Patrick Schulte

Schulte's night began on a sour note, as he was solely responsible for Tigres' opening goal, losing control of the ball in the box while attempting to play out from the back. However, he bounced back with an exceptional goalkeeping performance throughout regular play and came through for the Crew in the subsequent penalty shootout with two consecutive outstanding saves.

The 23-year-old goalkeeper, who had never previously saved a penalty kick in his professional career, made his first stop with a remarkable outstretched rejection low and to his right on Gignac, putting pressure on Tigres early in the shootout. Schulte followed up with another crucial save, this time diving low and to his left, denying Tigres’ Guido Pizarro and giving the Crew a significant 2-0 lead in the shootout. With these two crucial saves in hand, the Crew managed to withstand Cucho Hernandez's miss on the fourth attempt, leaving the winning penalty to winger Max Arfsten, a relatively unknown 22-year-old player. Similar to Schulte, Arfsten stepped up when needed and confidently converted his spot kick, propelling Columbus to the semifinals.

Crew Resilience

Clubs from Liga MX thought they would sweep aside MLS clubs in this competition, but they were quickly reminded that Columbus is massive no matter the consequences.

Many thought the humid environment and atmosphere at Estadio Volcan would be too much for Columbus, who were without key midfielder Aidan Morris due to suspension after seeing red in the first leg. The game started off in the worst way possible, with Schulte failing to control the ball and gifting Gignac a goal. Despite the goalkeeper’s performance picking up after that disaster, the team was as disorganized as ever and looked extremely uncomfortable playing their game. The Crew appeared more reserved than usual, with very few bodies in the attack, leaving Cucho isolated with at times three defenders on him. Nancy’s game management changed the tide of the match, with the Crew looking more positive coming out for the second half and Diego Rossi equalizing on the night. Tigres looked a bit frightened at times and had to resort to quick counters to beat the Crew's high line, which nearly worked if it weren’t for Gignac being offside numerous times. With the new rule of away goals being scrapped for extra time, both Columbus and Tigres were content with the game heading to ET, despite the visitors still posing a threat. Tigres and their crowd knew what they had to do and tried to be as loud as possible to test the Black & Gold’s mentality and nerves. Patrick Schulte was having none of it as he saved Tigres’ first two penalties before Max Arfsten finished off the tie as cool as you like, silencing the home crowd and punching their tickets to the semis of the competition for the first time in club history.

Concacaf gotta Concacaf

After going 1-0 down, Columbus found themselves 2-0 down just before the initial break as Gignac put the ball into the net despite clearly being offside for the tap-in. The French striker didn’t even celebrate and slowly walked backwards as he prepared for the freekick, but to his surprise the referee pointed to the center circle indicating the goal has been given. There was so much confusion before disallowing the goal, but referee Bryan Lopez initially awarded the goal on the field before VAR had to intervene, and even then, the linesman seemingly didn’t see what was wrong, making the review take much longer than it should have. Whether it’s CONCACAF or the MLS, we keep seeing officials making silly errors and hardly anything is being done, or at least addressed. If it weren’t for VAR, albeit taking ages to confirm Gignac was miles offside, the goal would've stood, and we would be discussing how the Crew lost the game. We're not going to let that slip from our memories.

Let’s move to the second half where we continued to see some incompetence. This occurred in the 50th minute when left wingback Yaw Yeboah was brought down inside Tigres’ penalty box. However, despite the clear contact and getting none of the ball, the VAR officials did not prompt the referee to review the play further, and no penalty kick was given. Another instance of uncertainty arose in the second half when the Crew won a corner after a clear deflection off a Tigres defender, but the ref initially awarded a goal kick and then changed his decision several seconds later, just before the Tigres keeper took the goal kick. It’s very rare to see that happen.

Looking ahead, the Crew is looking forward to facing the winner of the CF Monterrey, Tigres UANL’s rivals, and Inter Miami match in the Champions Cup semifinal, scheduled for the end of this, or early next month, with the exact time and date yet to be determined.

Now remember, you’re able to say, “Remember that night in Monterrey.” What a historic night for the Crew family!