The Major League Soccer contingent in Concacaf Champions League managed to avoid defeat on Wednesday, but it still felt like anything but a successful night for the American teams taking part in quarterfinal action.
The Columbus Crew watched a late lead disappear in controversial fashion in an eventual 2-2 draw with Liga MX giant Monterrey. A stoppage-time equalizer allowed Monterrey to escape Ohio with control of the series on a night when officiating decisions left Crew head coach Caleb Porter fuming.
In Portland, the Timbers managed some late magic of their own to salvage a draw against Club America, though the result leaves the Cascadian club facing a steep challenge in the return leg at Estadio Azteca.
Here is a closer look at Wednesday’s CCL quarterfinal action:
Crew 2, Monterrey 2
(Milton Valenzuela 65′, Lucas Zelarayán 87′) – (Ake Loba 9′, José Alvarado 90+3′)
Unable to make the most of their home-field advantage in the first leg, the Columbus Crew will be left frustrated after Wednesday night’s performance.
The fans in attendance were put through plenty of emotions and ultimately headed home feeling sour after watching a stoppage-time equalizer rob their team of some serious triumph, courtesy of a Monterrey’s José Alvarado.
His header at the death canceled out Lucas Zelarayán’s late go-ahead goal, which looked to have Columbus set up nicely to offset Monterrey’s early away tally.
Adding to the frustration, the goal will be Zelarayán’s only one of the series. He is ruled out of the second leg after his collection of a yellow card in the 12th minute. That will make things much more difficult looking ahead.
What’s more, Bradley Wright-Phillips found a set-piece goal in the 71st minute but it was waved off after video review deemed defender Josh Williams to be offside by a slim margin on the setup, deflating the momentum the team had built leading up to it.
An early opening strike from Ake Loba gave Monterrey license to switch its shape to a five-man backline, and it took Columbus a while to begin creating opportunities.
The Crew snapped out of the trance and looked lively to close out the first half, and probably deserved the equalizer before it came. But an array of mistakes in the final third, headlined by Luis Díaz running out of gas in front of an empty net, gave a preview that the goals were to come in the second half.
With a big advantage on aggregate, Monterrey is set to host the second leg next Wednesday at Estadio BBVA in Guadeloupe, Mexico, and will be looking to celebrate Cinco de Mayo by sealing off the game and advancing to the semifinals.
Timbers 1, Club America 1
(Felipe Mora 90+7′) – (Roger Martinez 45+1′)
The Portland Timbers are thankful for a generous amount of stoppage time in the second half of their battle with Club América at Providence Park.
In the dying moments of the game, the visitors had a complete meltdown in the box, and it allowed for Felipe Mora to execute from the spot to even things up.
In the two-legged game, the away goal is king though. Club América earned it in penalty fashion as well. Claudio Bravo was rightfully cited for a foul on América’s Richard Sánchez in the box just before halftime, and Roger Martinez made him pay for it from the spot.
The minutes in between the goals saw Portland come up short on a trio of good opportunities. Yimmi Chara, Larrys Mabiala, and Dairon Asprilla all had good efforts but came up short on thin margins.
Like the Columbus-Monterrey game, the referee was busy. A total of nine yellow cards were doled out, and thanks to that Portland will not have to worry about Martinez next week as he will be suspended due to accumulation.
The second leg will take place at Estadio Azteca in Mexico City on May 5.