The Columbus Crew travelled to Monterrey, Mexico Wednesday night to take on CF Monterrey in the second leg of the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal in which the Black & Gold fell 3-0 to a simply better Rayados side. It was the Crew’s first loss since November of 2020 and ends the team’s historic run in the Champions League to Monterrey 5-2 on aggregate.
The first leg ended in a much-disputed 2-2 draw in Columbus in which head coach Caleb Porter was fined for complaints about officiating and playmaker Lucas Zelarayan was carded and suspended for the second leg.
The only surprise in the Crew’s starting lineup was Waylon Francis getting the start over Milton Valenzuela, who was not on the bench either, although no reason for his absence has been given.
Monterrey came out with crisp possessions and capitalized in just the third minute. A throw-in led to a cross that goalkeeper Eloy Room came out on and deflected but the ball went right to the feet of attacker Maximiliano Meza who was gifted the chance and tapped it in to finish.
The Crew came back with a flurry of chances after conceding, two of which forward Gyasi Zardes put on frame but could not break through the Monterrey goalkeeper. The game slowed and both teams settled in around the 12th minute.
Winger Luis Diaz got away with a dirty challenge in the 17th minute that Monterrey took to heart and clearly increased the game’s physicality. This wasn’t a surprise after the first match.
Rayados had their next best chance in the 19th minute when center back Jonathan Mensah played an uncharacteristic back pass too short and Room was forced to make two saves one-on-one with the Monterrey forward Vincent Janssen. The home team had three resulting corner kicks but was still unable to convert.
In the minute 26th, Josh Williams was taken down on a long ball, leaving Mensah to mark two Monterrey attackers. A quick pass and Meza got his second of the night to put his side up 2-0 and 4-2 on aggregate with another easy finish.
Play got dirty quickly after the second goal for the home team. In the 38th minute, a late challenge on Diaz and a whistle was disagreeable for the Monterrey side and eventually led to both teams getting into a scuffle and the game’s first yellow card going to Monterrey defender Nicolas Sanchez.
Through the first half, Monterrey simply looked sharper. The Crew was solid in possession but could not create dangerous chances. Columbus had six shots with only one on goal at the end of the half, compared to Rayados’ eight with six on goal.
Porter made a big call and brought in forward Bradley Wright-Phillips replaced Zardes to start the second half. Zardes was dealing with a shoulder injury suffered in the first leg against Monterrey and has not been to full strength since. Porter also subbed in defender Saad Abdul-Salaam for Afful and midfeidler Alexandru Matan for Artur in the 56th minute. The change of pace was necessary as the Crew had barely seen a solid chance since the half started.
However, these moves did not bring the energy fans hoped for as the pace of the game slowed more.
Then Monterrey said good night.
Substitute Isaiah Parente gave the home side a free kick in the 71st minute just outside the top of the pnealty box and Miguel Layun buried it, not even giving Room a chance. It put Monterrey up 3-0 and 5-2 on aggregate.
Miguel Berry came in for Pedro Santos in the 74th minute but there was nothing left in the tank for Columbus.
The Black & Gold need someone who can put the ball in the back of the net. Traditionally, that would be Gyasi Zardes, but tonight, and overall as of late, the striker has not been able to finish. Zardes had two shots and several chances in his 45 minutes on the pitch but was unable to convert. The fresh legs in the second half weren’t the answer either, so Porter has some figuring out to do with how his offense is functioning.
Now To MLS
If there is a bright side from this result, the Crew will now be able to turn the team’s attention solely to MLS play, in which they have yet to get three points after two draws. Columbus has four games in the next two weeks and will look to snag as many points as possible in the stretch.
The Crew has another quick turnaround as the Black & Gold head home to take on D.C. United Saturday at 1:30 p.m. ET D.C. is currently 1-0-2 and coming off a brutal 4-1 loss to the San Jose Earthquakes last Saturday.