While most people were still nursing their hangovers from a two day orgy of UEFA Champions League matches, the CONCACAF equivalent was contested at sites around Northern and Central America the past three nights. So perhaps you missed what is arguably the finest result yet by an MLS team in the 2009 edition of the tournament. What the Columbus Crew did Wednesday night in winning 1-0 against Deportivo Saprissa in San Jose, Costa Rica is break through against a tough opponent in a stadium most people fear – The Monster’s Cave. No MLS team has ever found success at Saprissa Stadium, until now.
Eddie Gaven scored the game’s only goal in just the fifth minute, and goalkeeper Will Hesmer valiantly kept the ball out of his net over the next 85 minutes to complete the shutout. With the win, Columbus takes an important step toward the Champions League quarterfinals, and trail group leaders Cruz Azul by only one point. With two of their three remaining groups stage matches to be played at Crew Stadium, the odds are good that the Crew will advance to the knock-out stage of the tournament.
Perhaps the CONCACAF Champions League does not have the same stature and importance as the MLS Cup playoffs among the vast majority of MLS fans. I find that to be too myopic a view. This tournament is arguably the most important measuring stick for the strength of MLS versus other leagues in our region. I for one am proud of the Crew and their achievement, even though I don’t support the club themselves. The monumental victory at Saprissa is reason to celebrate for all American soccer fans.
However, a day has passed, and I am disappointed in how little excitement this historic victory has generated among MLS supporters. This is above-the-fold headline material for soccer media and bloggers. Instead, I found little to read at my favorite news sources. When I brought the match up with a colleague of mine, he just shrugged it away as a one-off result. I protested, but was unable to change his frame of mind.
Well, it’s not too late to celebrate the Crew’s victory – bring it up this weekend at the pub, or during your visit to watch your local MLS club play. Hoist your drink high and be proud of this result. Now, can we just get an MLS team victory in Mexico…