While the current labor negotiations are currently on everyone’s mind and rightfully so, the Columbus Crew had to take care of their own business and that was traveling down to Mexico to face Toluca in the second leg of the CONCACAF Champions League Quarterfinals.
After a two all draw at Crew Stadium last week in the first leg Columbus were ready to go down and try for history as well as a possible upset, but the match started in Toluca’s favor. So many chances for the home side in the first half and a couple of times it would be Will Hesmer making some brilliant saves or the crossbar would help him out as well. On one replay you saw the ball hit the near corner bar and land directly on the goal line, but never crossing it entirely.
But Columbus would get their chance to dent the scoreboard as a penalty was called just inside the first minute of stoppage time. A hand ball was whistled down by Referee Edgar Duenas and it would be Guillermo Barros Schelotto who took the spot kick and converts in the 2nd minute of first half stoppage time. Columbus leads one goal to nil & three goals to two lead on the Aggregate at the half.
Toluca of course came out to start the second half and attacked to get level. They were on a run in the 46th minute and converted a goal, but it was called back because Duenas called for a penalty to Toluca. On the replays there seemed to be no foul inside the area and Toluca would get a second chance to score the equalizer & Hector Mancilla did so in the 47th Minute. It was one all on the scoreboard, three all on aggregate with Toluca ahead on away goals two to one.
This match was getting very exciting and you never know what was going to happen next. The Crew were called for a foul just five feet outside their area and in the 57th minute, a fabulous free kick by Sinha nails the bottom of the crossbar and crossed over the entire line for the two one lead. But the Crew was determined to equalize and did so in the 70th minute. Danny O’Rourke attacked down the near side and crossed the ball into the area; Steven Lenhart who was the hero in the first leg would try to score. He hit the far post and the rebound went towards Schelotto who converted his second goal of the match and the aggregate leveled at four as well as the away goals leveled at two a piece.
What a great second goal Schelotto converted, but sadly it all went for naught two minutes later. A foul just outside the Columbus area again and Sinha with another free kick situation. Just one solid smack into the near upper 90 and Sinha takes the aggregate back for Toluca. A foolish challenge by Eddie Gaven just a couple of feet outside the area allowed Toluca to take advantage.
Any hopes for a fantastic finish and a possible third equalizer of the match for the Crew would be for not as Steven Lenhart in the 80th minute would be shown a red card for an off the ball foul and the Crew were down to ten men for the rest of the match. Even though Columbus was eliminated from Champions League play, I have to say that they looked fantastic on the field.
If Frankie Hejduk & Guillermo Barros Schelotto weren’t suspended for the first leg, this series could’ve been a little bit better. But honestly credit goes to the players and the coaching staff of Robert Warzycha for getting them ready to play and battle to the end. But now we have to wait for this coming August & September to see if the Crew gets a second chance along with defending MLS Cup Champions Real Salt Lake, Runner up Los Angeles Galaxy & defending US Open Cup Champions Seattle Sounders FC will get a crack to win on Mexican soil. But hopefully this strike from the MLS Players Union is avoided.