Columbus Crew and the Unlikely Journey in the Concacaf Champions Cup Overcoming

Challenges in Mexico, the MLS Team is One Step Away from Continental Glory
Columbus Crew v CF Montreal
Columbus Crew v CF Montreal / Minas Panagiotakis/GettyImages

The journey of the Columbus Crew in the 2024 Concacaf Champions League is noteworthy. In a tournament where MLS teams historically face great difficulties, the Crew not only defied the odds but also dominated enemy territory. Defeating Tigres UANL and CF Monterrey at their own stadiums would already be a remarkable feat, but the Ohio team is now on the brink of an even greater achievement: the final against CF Pachuca at Estadio Hidalgo, a venue known for its intimidating atmosphere and challenging altitude.

Under the leadership of coach Wilfried Nancy, the team has shown remarkable adaptability and focus. The victory over Tigres UANL in the quarterfinals, in a traditionally hostile environment like Estadio Universitario, known as "El Volcán," was a harbinger of things to come. The Crew players not only faced the pressure of a packed stadium with some of the most passionate fans in Latin America but also overcame an early adverse goal to win on penalties.

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The semifinal against CF Monterrey at Estadio BBVA was even more impressive. The stadium, known for its grand architecture and fervent crowd, presented a different challenge. After an unfavorable start with an own goal, the Columbus Crew kept their cool, demonstrating confidence in their style of play and the ability to reverse the situation with a resounding 3-1 victory. This victory not only secured their spot in the final but also solidified the team's confidence in facing any adversity.

Now, the ultimate challenge awaits at Estadio Hidalgo against CF Pachuca. This stadium, situated at almost 8,000 feet above sea level, offers significant physical challenges that are rarely encountered by MLS teams, even those accustomed to altitude in places like Colorado and Salt Lake. The pressure of playing in such a compact environment, where fans seem to be right on top of the players, only adds to the difficulty.

However, Columbus Crew's preparation for this game does not differ much from the norm. The team travels two days before, taking the opportunity to train at the opponent's stadium on the eve of the match. The focus of Columbus Crew, expressed by players like Cucho Hernández and Diego Rossi, is exemplary. They emphasize the importance of maintaining concentration and consistent preparation, regardless of the opponent or the location of the game.

Traditionally, MLS teams have struggled to compete in Mexico, where the atmosphere and quality of Liga MX teams create an almost insurmountable environment. Columbus Crew, however, not only challenged this norm but also redefined what is possible for MLS clubs in continental competition.