Columbus Crew's stunning CONCACAF win fuels 'limitless' aspirations
Columbus Crew midfielder Aidan Morris. Marc Lebryk-USA TODAY Sports

Columbus Crew's stunning CONCACAF win fuels 'limitless' aspirations

American teams have traditionally underperformed in the CONCACAF Champions Cup. In 62 years of competition, only 10 American teams have made it to the final and only three have gone on to win it.

But Major League Soccer's Columbus Crew believes they're the perfect team to flip the script. 

"For me, this is about trying to be limitless, and this value, for me, is so important," coach Wilfried Nancy said after a 3-1 win Wednesday over Monterrey advanced the Crew to the Cup final. "Why are we going to put limits on what we do?"

The Crew will face CF Pachuca June 1 at Estadio Hidalgo in Pachuca, Mexico.

An early goal from Monterrey threw the Crew into disarray, but Aidan Morris's equalizing goal before halftime restored Columbus' confidence.

From there, the Crew were unstoppable. They performed beautifully in the second half, getting goals from Diego Rossi and Jacen Russell-Rowe and neutralizing Monterrey's potent attack. 

"The team showed great resilience, coming from a goal down. It was awesome," Columbus midfielder Morris said, per MLS.com

"One more game to go."

Columbus' 2024 Champions Cup journey has come with a bunch of firsts.

By beating Liga MX's Tigres in the quarterfinals, it became the first MLS team to win a penalty shootout in Mexico. With the win over Monterrey in the semifinals, the Crew became the first MLS team to beat Los Rayados over a two-legged playoff. Even Lionel Messi's Inter Miami failed to manage that.

All of those firsts set up the biggest first of all: Columbus' first Champions Cup final.

The Crew, under the skillful direction of Nancy, have developed into one of MLS' best outfits, receiving plaudits for clean passing sequences and organized defense.

Better yet, the team is continuing to improve. 

"When you play against top opponents, you always grow," Columbus captain Darlington Nagbe said. "I think the team has grown from every game that we've had against the teams here from Mexico."

Because the final is at Pachuca's stadium in Hidalgo, the Los Tuzos have a clear advantage. The game will be played at nearly 8,000 feet, perhaps taxing for the Crew. But the timing of the final should favor Columbus, as Pachuca will be coming off an exhausting playoff push in its own league.

The development of MLS and Liga MX in recent seasons has focused on star players and hot markets.

Teams such as Inter Miami and Club America have received most of the headlines, but this final —between the comparatively small markets of Pachuca (pop. 275,000) and Columbus (pop. 908,000) —-shows the rising tide has lifted everyone.

The Crew will return to MLS action on May 11 at home against Cincinnati.

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