Patrick Schulte heroics push Columbus Crew to historic upset of Tigres UANL

As disastrously as Patrick Schulte's Tuesday night started for the Columbus Crew, it couldn't have ended with a bigger flourish.

The 23-year-old goalkeeper's error sent the Crew into a 2-1 aggregate hole early in their Concacaf Champions Cup quarterfinal second leg at Liga MX giants Tigres UANL.

But after Diego Rossi's 59th-minute equalizer forced a scoreless extra time, Schulte delivered two epic saves in the decisive penalty-kick shootout – first on star striker André-Pierre Gignac and then on veteran midfielder Guido Pizarro – to highlight the Crew's 4-3 shootout victory.

The historic upset at El Volcán punched Columbus' CCC semifinal ticket, and they'll meet either Inter Miami CF or Mexico's CF Monterrey later this month to potentially reach the tournament's June 2 final.

"Patrick has been, again, I'm not surprised to be honest with you, because this is not easy what I'm asking to my players," Columbus head coach Wilfried Nancy said postgame.

"I've learned a lot today about what we can do, about the adjustments that I could have done better. But at the end of the day, Pat deserved that. I'm not surprised because, you know, the first question that people ask me is, 'Do you think that Pat is going to be able to keep going?' And I say, 'Why do you think like this?' Let's see. And he knows that he has to evolve and so I'm really happy for him because I can tell you that he was really, really disappointed when we conceded the [opening] goal."

Hungry for more

The dramatic ending completed one of the biggest results in Crew history, coming off a magical 2023 season in which they became three-time MLS Cup presented by Audi champions.

With their backs against the wall following Tigres' 3rd-minute opener from Gignac, Nancy's side dug deep to maintain their dream of winning CCC and qualifying for the 2025 FIFA Club World Cup.

"That's the way it's been since the beginning when I took the team: It's all about us," Nancy said. "We respect the opposition, we try to adjust certain things depending on what kind of style of play we're going to face. But at the end of the day, we try to play our football. And today, yes, I'm really proud of the way we played."

With one Liga MX foe vanquished, Columbus' next challenge will be either another Mexican powerhouse in CF Monterrey or a star-studded Inter Miami led by Lionel Messi.

Nancy declined to answer when asked which opponent he prefers, but expressed confidence his team will rise to the occasion, whoever it may be.

"Yes, we are [MLS Cup] champions, but the idea is: Is it possible to seek improvement, all the time? All the time, all the time," Nancy said. "And tonight I'm really happy because, yes, we won. But to be honest with you, PK win or loss, it would have been the same for me. Because they believe in that. That's why they are able to play the way they want to play, knowing that it's not easy.

"This is the message, this is all the time, day to day what we try to give them. All the time try to give a new challenge, to push them and to compete about what we want to do. And I'm really, really proud of that because I knew they can do really good stuff. But sometimes there's a little voice behind you saying that, 'No, no this is not possible.' So I try to tell them that, 'Hey [don't listen to] this voice. Leave it on the side and just play.'"

Ari Liljenwall - @AriLiljenwall

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