On a night filled with a spectrum of emotions, the Columbus Crew delivered one of its most impressive — and memorable — wins of the season when the Black & Gold cruised past Club América, 4-1, on Monday night to win Group C1 at Lower.com Field.
Club América might be a storied club, but it was clearly second best in at Ohio capital.
“Really happy about the [result],” Crew head coach Wilfried Nancy said after the match. “We started well, and after that, we had a moment where we struggled a bit. I'm really pleased of the fact that my players didn't quit. (Goalkeeper) Pat (Schulte) did the first save, and after that, we were good and we had moments where they had the ball, but we stayed together.
“For me, this is the most important because with a lot of humility, I know that we are able to do good things and we're able to play, but I really enjoy seeing my team facing adversity like this and still playing when we have the opportunity to do it. For me, this is the most important.”
Las Águilas scored the opener 29 minutes into the match through a clever free kick routine. As Miguel Layún lined up for long-range strike, he instead opted to play a wide ball toward Kevin Álvarez. The defender then collected the ball and snuck it beneath Patrick Schulte.
But then the Crew scored four unanswered.
Cucho Hernández delivered the equalizer a dozen minutes later when he controlled a pass from Steven Moreira atop the box and fired it to the back post.
The Colombian then provided a compelling goal celebration, as he pointed toward the departing Lucas Zelarayán in the stands. Ahead of kickoff, it was announced that Zelarayán is departing Columbus to play for Saudi Arabia side Al Fateh.
Columbus took the lead in the 69th minute when Cucho added his second via a penalty. After Patrick Schulte made a fine stop on the other end of the pitch, a brisk Crew counter led to Mohamed Farsi being bundled down by Luis Malagón inside the box. Cucho then stepped up to bury his attempt.
The fun carried on. América was kept quiet, and the Black & Gold doubled their lead. After a break down the left, the ball rolled toward Julian Gressel on the right side. The right wing back, on his debut, played a clever ball back, and Christian Ramirez was there for his first goal in Leagues Cup action.
The scoring poured into stoppage time, too, as Steven Moreira — yes, a center back — found himself exploding down the left flank and in on goal. Then, he coolly tucked his effort past Malagón to put four past the most storied club in North America.
This wasn’t a performance up for discussion. It was one where Columbus welcomed one of the top clubs in Liga MX to Lower.com Field, then outplayed Las Águilas over the course over the course of 90 minutes to win the group.
“I am really pleased about the tactical response and answer that my team gave to Club América,” Nancy said. “To be honest with you, they pressed us really well since the beginning so we adjusted a bit, and my players were able to recognize and to play the new animation that we put."
“After that, we played our game to try to manipulate the opposition and to find space between the line or over the line. To do that, I'm pleased because my players were brave and really courageous. That's why were able to do it, but the tactical answer that they gave was really good. That's why were able to keep attacking the box when we had the possibility.”
With that, the Crew claimed the top spot in Central Group 1 and secured a date with Minnesota United FC on Friday night at Lower.com Field. Tickets are available for the Round of 32 matchup, as the Black & Gold look to win a third-straight game in Leagues Cup.
But before looking ahead, it’s worth looking back at what we just witnessed.
Monday night was a reminder of what Leagues Cup is all about. Sure, a trophy and continental bragging rights go a long way, but so does the atmosphere inside Lower.com Field. As The Nordecke, with supporters dressed in black, chanted and banged on their drums, the América fans did the same on the end of the stadium — to a different beat, but everyone shared a universal rhythm.
Sure, that was a massive result for the Crew, but it was a memorable experience that will live long in the memories of those in attendance.
“Amazing since the beginning,” Nancy said of the crowd. “Again, as you know, I come from Europe … it's the same (atmosphere) here. Before starting the game, we had the Club America fans that were singing and we had also our fans singing, and we had a battle. I love it. I'm really pleased that they decided to create a tournament like this. This is not easy because this is more games, but again, I think that this is good for both countries.”
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