Champions League: David and Goliath

Chris GiffordContributor IAugust 26, 2009

Tomorrow night, the Columbus Crew will take on Deportivo Cruz Azul and try to do something no Major League Soccer team has ever done: Win a game in Mexico.

MLS All-Time Record in Mexico:
1998—Leon vs. Colorado 4:2
2001—Santos vs. Kansas City 4:2
2002—Pachuca vs. San Jose 3:0
2002—Morelia vs. Chicago 2:0
2002—Santos vs. Kansas City 2:1
2002—Morelia vs. Kansas City 6:1
2003—Morelia vs. Columbus 6:0
2003—Necaxa vs. LA Galaxy 2:1
2005—Pumas vs. DC United 5:0
2007—Chivas vs. DC United 2:1
2007—Pachuca vs. Houston 5:2 AET
2007—Chivas vs. DC United 1:0
2008—Pachuca vs. DC United 2:0
2008—Cruz Azul vs. DC United 2:0
2008—Pumas vs. Houston 4:4
2009—Atlante vs. Houston 3:0
16 Matches = 15 Losses and 1 Draw

Wednesday's game is the first leg of a home-and-home series between the two powerhouse clubs who are currently wrapped up in the CONCACAF Champions League.

Most believe that the winner of this series will advance to the tournament final, and possibly the Club World Cup in Abu Dhabi.

I'm not going to go into a lot of statistical analysis. I'll leave that to others. What I will say, without any shadow of a doubt, is that this Columbus side has a better chance than any MLS club before it of winning south of the border.

Not to sell any of the other American clubs short, but they just weren't as Massive as we are.

Look at it this way:

  • Columbus is stocked full of South Americans. The hardest things about playing in Mexico are the crowds and the altitude, both of which are nearly identical to what these guys—Schelotto, Padula, Moreno—played in growing up. And the guys on the Columbus roster who aren't from the southern hemisphere will have had a crash course in how to acclimate to the outside forces. 
  • The Crew refuse to roll over. These guys, all 21 who made the trip, hate to lose and will do whatever it takes to win. That's no different from any other team that's ever taken a field, except for when you look at what these guys have done this year—eight straight games without a loss (five of those without their leading scorer) while playing through injuries, national team call-ups and god knows what else—to stay at the top of the league. 
  • Columbus knows that they have a lot to lose. Everyone that flew to Mexico City with the Crew, from the coach down to the equipment manager, knows that winning in Mexico is a lot harder for the Crew than winning in Columbus is for Cruz Azul, and bringing the series back to Ohio with an advantage is going to be huge. Crew Stadium will be much more welcoming if we have a cushion. 
  • Three championship letters: GBS. Guillermo Barros Schelotto, one of the winningest Argintines ever to play soccer. The guy has nine League Championships, 11 International Titles, and is the most dangerous attacker this side of the Atlantic. He will, if needed, put this team on his back and carry them to victory. He once scored three goals in the second half for Boca Juniors in a Copa Libertadores match. Guillermo will save the day. 

All in all, this is going to be a classic matchup that will go largely under the radar. Not a lot of people follow this Champions League, opting for the European version instead.

But I'm here to tell you, our games are just as good, and though they may not have the name recognition, our players are just as dedicated to proving that they are the best on the continent.


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