This is it! The Columbus Crew is in Mexico and ready for the second leg against Monterrey in the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals. Last Wednesday’s first leg was filled with drama and controversy as Rayados scored a stoppage time equalizer to get a 2-2 draw in Ohio.
The task will be tough with the Black & Gold playing in the city of Monterrey and will play the match without its best attacker in midfielder Lucas Zelarayan. Rayados has star offensive players Vincent Janssen and Max Meza back as all the four-time Champion League winners need on Wednesday is a 0-0 draw to advance.
Columbus has drawn its last three competitive games with just two goals scored. Can this team make history again and make the semifinals for the first time in club history? We asked our staff for their predictions.
Columbus looked nervous and hurried in the opening minutes of Wednesday’s first leg against Monterrey. The Black & Gold aren’t going to come into the second leg with the same David vs. Goliath intimidation. All that the Crew needs to do is win and the team can accomplish its mission. Rayados won’t have the same easy time playing against a returning Jonathan Mensah and Josh Williams partnership.
Pedro Santos is going to play with his 2020 midseason form that saw him at his creative best. The pace of Derrick Etienne Jr. and Luis Diaz will keep the Monterrey backline on its toes. Diaz, Bradley Wright-Phillips and Gyasi Zardes all score against a Monterrey side that will come in confident and leave the match panicked.
P.S. the officiating is going to be bad
Columbus Crew 3 CF Monterrey 2 (Crew advance 5-4 on aggregate)
A disappointing, but thrilling, 2-2 draw in Columbus sees the Crew make the trek to Monterrey with a win by any score guaranteeing an aggregate win. The Black & Gold would be at full strength but for a strange yellow card issued to Lucas Zelarayan in the home leg, forcing the Crew’s No. 10 out of Wednesday’s match. Monterrey will have the benefit of an even more full-strength lineup that could see the return of Vincent Janssen and Maxi Meza after Rayados secured a bye in the first round of the Liguilla.
Getting a win in Monterrey will certainly be a tall task for Columbus. The Black & Gold will need to play a near perfect defensive game if they hope to keep Rayados off the scoreboard, so the return of Jonathan Mensah comes at the right time. I think the Crew gets an early lead and defends for the remainder of the match to hold on for a MASSIVE win.
Columbus Crew 1 CF Monterrey 0 (Crew advance 3-2 on aggregate)
It will be a hostile environment for the Crew to walk into on Wednesday night. The challenge will be greater without Lucas Zelarayan and I believe this will be a situation that might be too great for the Black & Gold to conquer. With Victor Janssen and Maxi Meza back for Rayados, that will make the attack a lot deadlier than what we saw last week in Columbus. Plus Monterrey is likely to be more aggressive going forward with the home crowd behind them.
It should be another exciting match but Monterrey has the big game experience and has owned the Champions League nearly every time competing in it. Rayados will advance while the Crew will shift its focus to defending its MLS Cup championship.
CF Monterrey 2 Columbus Crew 1 (Monterrey advance 4-3 on aggregate)
The math is simple, Columbus needs a win (or a very high scoring draw) to advance. Unfortunately, that is the only simple part about this matchup. MLS sides have historically struggled against Mexican sides in Mexico, and the Crew is no different. While Monterrey is not in the best of form, only winning one of its last five games (with red cards in three of them), Rayados should be able to field a very strong lineup after securing a bye in the Liga MX playoffs.
Meanwhile, the Crew will be without Lucas Zelarayan and possibly Gyasi Zardes, but will see the return of Jonathan Mensah. Honestly, I think this game could go either way, but the odds are not in the Crew’s favor. I’m going for a draw, with a goal from Bradley Wright-Phillips, but like I said, I wouldn’t be shocked by any other result.
Columbus Crew 1 CF Monterrey 1 (Monterrey advance 3-3 on away goals)
This will be one of the toughest games in recent memory for the Black & Gold. Facing one of the best teams in CONCACAF, on the road, down on away goals and without Lucas Zelarayan, it certainly won’t be an easy task. That being said, the road to the semifinals isn’t completely blocked. The Crew was the better side last week and pose a difficult matchup for Monterrey. On top of that, head coach Caleb Porter flat out knows how to win tough games, as evidenced by the Crew’s historic MLS Cup win. Porter and company will find a way to put the Crew in a position to win.
At the end of the day, it seems a monumental task for the Black & Gold but I am choosing to believe in Porter and the boys. The Crew pulls through in an epic game that will be remembered for a long time. Goals from Luis Diaz and Zardes.
Columbus Crew 2 CF Monterrey 1 (Crew advance 4-3 on aggregate)
The quality of MLS vs. Liga MX in the Champions League has certainly improved over the years and the first leg of this match was a perfect example with the exciting 2-2 draw in Columbus. As we shift to Mexico, one big miss for the Crew will be the absence of Lucas Zelarayan due to yellow card accumulation (I’m not going to go into how soft this was). This is a big miss for the Crew, who need to either win or have a draw in which they score at least three goals to advance to the next round.
Pedro Santos will most likely fill Zelarayan’s spot in the center of midfield and is a capable option for Columbus. Another player who is questionable is Gyasi Zardes, who dislocated his shoulder in the first leg and may not play tonight. For Monterrey, it is important to note that they did not field their strongest team in Columbus. Make no mistake this is going to be a tough match to win. I want to be wrong here and I do not doubt the passion and heart of this Crew team, but I think the first leg was the opportunity to really put pressure on Monterrey and the opportunity has gone.
CF Monterrey 2 Columbus Crew 1 (Monterrey advance 4-3 on aggregate)
The Crew certainly has a tough task on Wednesday night in Mexico. Had Columbus held on to the late 2-1 lead at historic Crew Stadium, I would have felt the Black & Gold had a much better chance of advancing in this one.
With that said, all the Crew needs to do is win at Monterrey. Of course, that’s easier said than done, especially with Lucas Zelarayan serving his one-game suspension. Other than the No. 10, I expected a strong lineup from Columbus.
To me, this game comes down to balance for the visitors. They will have to defend as well as they have in MLS play this year, while still finding ways to get some numbers forward. As long as the game remains 0-0, there can’t be a panic when the Black & Gold throw too many players foward and get caught without enough at the back.
Unfortunately, I think Monterrey is too much for the Crew. Another first half goal will allow Rayados to take control of the match and hang on to advance to the semifinals.
CF Monterrey 1 Columbus Crew 0 (Monterrey advance 3-2 on aggregate)
You’ve seen our score predictions. Now let us know how you think this game plays out in the comment section below.