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CCL Rewind: Monterrey grabs late equalizer in Columbus, Timbers tie Club America


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′)

Pedro Santos
Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports

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′)

Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

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.


  1. columbus blew it…say what we want about pay and roster size…the mexican players are smarter or maybe better coached or both….key to monterrey’s tying goal, columbus player got possession with 2-3 minutes to go and booted the ball upfield, instead of maintaining posession….when monterrey recovered the ball they never lost possesion until the 2nd goal….that has nothing to do with pay or roster size….i think only portland has a chance to make it to the final because severese is the coach more familiar with the way the mexicans want to play….

  2. Last year LAFC was clearly the equal of the Mexican sides. This year, though, there is a noticeable quality difference. Although MNLS teams have improved considerably compared to say 3 to 5 years ago, the Mexican are still cleaner on the ball. Too many poor first touches by MLS players, even those from South American countries, led to turnovers or blunted counter attacks. In possession Mexican teams seem to always be able to find an open man to pass to, no matter the press. Not so with MLS teams. The Mexican sides came out much more prepared and scored goals early before the MLS teams seemed to wake up. It took Columbus, for example, 20 minutes to get any kind of rhythm.

    • Gary, the obvious rhetoric is roster size and pay discrepancy between both leagues. Also, MLS being so early in there season. The speed of the game last night seemed to surprise the Timbers in the first half. With a lack of passing percentage and overall not being clean on the ball. It showed with 35% of the ball for the match and a lack of chances created. Timbers struggled to hold the ball and form passing triangles for outlets and attacks. América is no joke with talent, being prepared and coached América ran out there best lineup and the Timbers were missing two starters in Blanco, Ebobisse, and trading Villafana hurts in a match like this. Along with Polo getting his green card sorted and Niezgoda recovering from ACL. Timbers lacked options to hold the ball and ,most of all counter. Which is pretty much how the Timbers approached the match. Both teams stayed extremely organized on defense and the lack of chances created for América as well. The stats don’t lie with both teams struggling to be dangerous in the offensive third.
      One thing that is clear and obvious is LigaMX definitely coaches to the situation. If an opponent has a yellow attack, pester, instigate, and embellish. Putting a lot of pressure on the ref to manage and control the match. Any chance you can created a situation, magnify it and run with it. Whether it is time wasting or off the ball minimal contact embellishment. Teams want a certain amount of chaos to control the atmosphere. These shenanigans bring superior talent down to your level and confusion for less talented teams

    • I tried to warn you two weeks ago. The early season nature of this round doesn’t help along with Portland, Columbus, and Toronto all having a number of injuries. What was disappointing for me was Columbus had a bye last weekend they had 10 days to prepare. Losing Mensah was huge, Keita was pretty bad.
      LAFC had the advantage of 1 offs. Both Columbus and Portland would have gone to penalties last night so we could have easily had 3 MLS semifinalists using last years format.

    • Something I want to add. You can blame it on injuries and/or being early in the MLS season, but one thing I see time and again is that the Mexican teams, even the national team, play together better as teams. Much less individual play, better ball movement, better movement off the ball, quicker passing, etc. My guestimate is that even at their best, MLS/American teams are only about 80% as good as the Mexican teams. Sometimes US times can win with superior athleticism, but Mexican teams often play joga bonita, to use the Brazilian term. I remember an international friendly a couple of years back with the Mexican national team playing England and the Mexicans ran and passed rings around the English. Even the English commentators had to admit the Mexicans outplayed the English. Then, 2/3 of the way through the game the English scored on a header off a cross or corner kick and held out the Mexicans to win 1-0.

      • According to MLS website Columbus had 62% possession had better passing accuracy, more shots and more shots on target.
        Portland only started 2 Americans and Club America only started 4 Mexicans. Both managers were South American as well.
        Players by country combined
        Mexico 5 (5 starters)
        Colombia 5 (4 starters)
        Argentina 3 (3)
        USA 3 (2)
        Paraguay 3 (2)
        Uruguay 2 (1)
        MLS sides are changing, trying to play more technical soccer. Columbus showed that at least statistically. Those changes are slowly working through academy systems. Fortunately for the NT and unfortunately for MLS the best of those are being grabbed up by Europe faster. For technical possession soccer to really solidify in the US the USMNT manager after 2022 needs to be a technical possession style manager whether that’s Berhalter or not. Players in MLS have to see this higher level of skill is what I need I can’t just be stronger or faster. We’ll see I think both Columbus and Portland will lose by 2 goals on the road. Which is better than the blowouts we’ve seen in Mexico in the past.

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