Crew Coverage

Crew Coverage | Nancy: Crew ‘can face any team’ after historic win over Monterrey in Concacaf Champions Cup

Last December, the Columbus Crew proved they were the best team in Major League Soccer. On Wednesday night, the Crew moved closer to proving they’re the best team in North America. 

In a historic match that paired Columbus with one of the continent’s best clubs, the Black & Gold beat CF Monterrey, 2-1, at Field in the first leg of the Concacaf Champions Cup semifinals. 

“Honestly, it was a really good game. I really enjoyed the game,” head coach Wilfried Nancy said after the win. “Both sides, we wanted to attack. We had opportunities. They also had chances. We did a good job to stop that. After that, also we had opportunities. Listen, after that, this is a battle of power. 

“Really proud of the guys because we did a really good game in terms of when we had a difficult moment, we were together, and when we had the ball, we tried to play our game. We did, and we had good opportunities also. We were able to unbalance them also. Yes, this is a high-level game, so I was pleased for that.”

The biggest matches need the biggest performances, so who else but Cucho Hernández to give Columbus the first-half lead in the 25th minute through a clinical sequence? Cucho received the ball from Darlington Nagbe, then turned and played a give-and-go with Jacen Russell-Rowe that sliced through the Monterrey backline. Then, the Colombian found space and smashed the ball home.

Maximiliano Meza produced the Monterrey equalizer in the 58th minute, but the Crew continued pushing and eventually earned the game-winning goal in the 72nd minute. 

Russell-Rowe headed in his first Concacaf Champions Cup goal through a perfectly played set piece that sent Field into a frenzy. Diego Rossi played an outswinging corner toward the near post, where Sean Zawadzki was there to clip it to the back post. There, Russell-Rowe was waiting and nodded Columbus in front.

“Jacen deserved it, but also the flick-on of Sean – he touched the ball first and this is something that my staff work on that, and it worked today,” Nancy said. “We deserved it because they didn't stop it. They pushed for that, and this is good for us.”

And just like that, the Crew are on the cusp of advancing to the Concacaf Champions Cup final for the first time in the Club’s 29-year history. While this was leg one, the return leg is next Wednesday night at Rayados – no small feat. But beating Monterrey was no small feat in Columbus, either. 

While the Black & Gold are currently the best side in MLS, they are taking down the top Mexican clubs that they face, too. 

“I'm really proud of that because it's a fact,” Nancy said. “I don't know what is going to happen next week, but the fact is that we've been good. My players showed that they can face any team and any kind of style of play, knowing that we know that it's going to be difficult. Again, they believe in them. They trust also the process because this is a process. 

“They think that they want to stick to the task and knowing that when this is difficult moment – I remember against Club América last year, we had a difficult moment for 20 minutes, but we faced the adversity, and after that, we won the battle of power. For me, this is the day-to-day work about what they do and also the belief that they have. Again, we respect everyone, but we fear no one.”

However, before the second leg clash, the Columbus Crew resume league activities on Saturday night when the club hosts CF Montréal at Field.

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