COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — The Columbus Crew are set to host Monterrey in the quarterfinals of the Concacaf Champions League. The first leg of the two-game series will be played in Columbus on Wednesday at 8:30 p.m. The second game will be played in Monterrey, Mexico on May 5.
Columbus is one of five MLS teams to make the Champions League quarterfinals, the most MLS teams to make it this far in the same tournament.
The Crew got to the quarterfinals by beating Real Estelí FC 5-0 on aggregate with four of those goals coming in the first half of the first leg. Bradley Wright-Phillips scored his first goal as a member of the Crew in the second game.
The Crew and Monterrey enter the game at two completely different stages of their seasons. Columbus played its MLS opener on April 18 and has not had a game since then in preparation for the quarterfinals. But Monterrey has one game left in its regular season and has played three games since April 18.
“I would say they have an advantage cause of the rhythm of playing and they’re at the end of the year, so that’s a big advantage for them being that they’re at end of the year form and we’re in preseason form,” Crew head coach Caleb Porter said.
While Monterrey has played 18 games in 2021, Columbus has only played seven with four of those games being friendlies during the MLS preseason.
“We don’t have our rhythm yet. We’re creating that, we’re settling into that,” porter said. “They’re in a rhythm and when you’re in a rhythm and playing games, it’s always better than when you’re not in a rhythm. You could say yeah we’re fresh but I think that’s something that’s a little overrated.”
Columbus’ schedule will ramp starting Wednesday when they play their first of six games in a 19-day period.
“We enter I think the most difficult stretch of our season this month,” Porter said. “Basically every three days we’re going to be playing a game and two of those six are at home, so a majority of those games are on the road. This is, in my opinion, the most difficult stretch we have all season long.”
This stage of the Champions League is also important because the Crew have never advanced past the quarterfinals.
“This is a massive opportunity for our club to do something that’s never been done to beat one of the best teams in Concacaf, so we’re going to throw everything we have into this first game,” Porter said.
Monterrey has won the Champions League four times while no MLS team has ever won the Champions League in its current format, which started in 2008. Monterrey’s success can be seen in its record against MLS teams with the Rayados recording nine wins, one draw and two losses.
“Not only hasn’t [our] club progressed far in this tournament but also an MLS team winning this [hasn’t been done], so we have high expectations, high goals and I think that it’s going to be a great test playing against a club like Monterrey,” forward Gyasi Zardes said.