The task was tough, but looked attainable on multiple occasions for the Columbus Crew.
The Crew needed to win in Mexico to advance to the CONCACAF Champions League semifinals, and looked capable of doing so after taking a 1-0 lead just before halftime and tying Toluca 2-2 in the second half to even the overall series. On both occasions, Toluca responded swiftly to steal away the momentum.
Mexican international Zinha scored a pair of stunning free kick goals, including one just seconds after Guillermo Barros Schelotto made the score 2-2, to help give Toluca a 3-2 second-leg victory and 5-4 series victory to earn a place in the Champions League semifinals.
Columbus had a chance to win the series on away goals after Zinha's second strike, but hopes of that fightback were hampered severely when forward Steven Lenhart was issued a red card in the 80th minute.
Despite the loss, the Crew showed good form for a team still in pre-season, and Columbus' ability to push Toluca to the brink bodes well for the Crew returning to the level that helped the club win the MLS Cup title in 2008.
The loss drops the record of MLS teams in meaningful matches in Mexico (non-exhibitions) to 0-19-2.
Here are some other stories to get your Thursday going:
D.C. TOPS TFC IN CAROLINA CHALLENGE
Jaime Moreno continued his stellar pre-season form by scoring the loan goal in D.C. United's 1-0 victory vs. Toronto FC in Carolina Challenge Cup action in Charleston, South Carolina on Wednesday.
Toronto went a man down in the 28th minute when midfielder Amadou Sanyang was issued his second yellow card. The red card was the fourth in four matches for Toronto FC players.
Moreno broke the scoreless deadlock in the 62nd minute to give D.C. the lead and give Moreno his third goal in two Carolina Challenge Cup victories.
In the day's other Cup match, Real Salt Lake routed the Charleston Battery, 3-1, on goals from Robbie Findley, Javier Morales and Fabian Espindola.
D.C. United will conclude Carolina Challenge Cup play on Saturday vs. Charleston, while Toronto will take on Real Salt Lake.
MEXICO BEATS NORTH KOREA
The past and the future of Mexican soccer was on display on Wednesday as Cuauhtemoc Blanco and Javier "Chicharito' Hernandez scored goals in Mexico's 2-1 exhibition victory against fellow World Cup participant North Korea in Torreon, Mexico.
PHILLY UNION TO PLAY VALENCIA
The Philadelphia Union will play host to Spanish powerhouse Valencia in an exhibition match this summer at the soon-to-be-completed PPL Park in Chester, the club announced on Wednesday.
The date for the match has yet to be finalized, though the Valencia website has the match slated for July 31st.
The match is one of three Valencia is expected to play in the United States. New England and D.C. United are also proposed opponents.
EARTHQUAKES TIE DYNAMO IN PRE-SEASON ACTION
The San Jose Earthquakes and Houston Dynamo played to a scoreless tie on Wednesday night in pre-season action in San Francisco.
The shutout was the fourth straight in pre-season action for the Earthquakes, who close out pre-season play on Saturday with a match vs. the Portland Timbers.
P. DIDDY CONSIDERS BID FOR CRYSTAL PALACE
You could soon see yet another American buying an English soccer team, only it's not someone you would expect.
Sean 'P. Didddy' Combs is reportedly interested in buying cash-strapped Crystal Palace. No word on whether he'll rename the club Ciroc Palace.
What do you think of these results? Did the Crew impress you last night? Starting to believe it could be a good year for D.C. United? Getting worried about Toronto FC's pre-season form?
Share your thoughts below.