Pando Ramirez scored two wonderful goals for CSD Municipal as the Guatemalan side edged the Columbus Crew 2-1 in a must-win game for his team. Municipal came in to the game needing a win to keep hopes alive of qualifying to the next round in the CONCACAF Champions League and they achieved just that.
The top two teams in the group advance, and the Crew sit in second place with nine points while Municipal climbed to eight points, though they remain in third place. Mexico's Santos Laguna advanced to the top of group with 10 points after a 5-1 win over Trinidad's Joe Public.
The Crew used an alternate lineup to rest some of their players in this game. But Ramirez expressed pride in the victory. "They had several first-team players, they weren't missing very many. The important thing is that we won, independently of who came and who didn't," he said.
Despite a heavy downpour that dampened the field, Municipal were quick and proactive, attacking early and often. Their perseverance was rewarded when Ramirez eluded a Crew defender with a series of swerving cuts before unleashing a monster shot from about 35 meters away into the back of the net in the 19th minute.
Twenty minutes later, Ramirez would again score after a beautiful through pass from Marvin Avila reached Pando's foot, who curled it towards goal. Crew keeper Andy Gruenebaum was able to partially deflect the ball, which sailed upwards but ultimately dipped into the goal.
Nearing the end of halftime, a corner kick in Crew's favor sailed past the defenders in the near post and found Andy Iro in point-blank range who drilled it past Municipal's keeper, Rony Alvarez.
In the second half both teams had chances to score, but neither was able to move the scoreboard. Municipal was perhaps closest as a Mario Rodriguez cross was not cleared effectively and left Avila with a goalie-less net. However, a Crew defender blocked the shot, which may have been off-target anyway.
Rodriguez had another clear chance for himself as he was left alone in front of goal. His shot, however, went straight to Gruenbaum who pounced on the ball.
Nearing the end of the game, conditions continued to worsen as the rain kept pouring. Scuffles between the two teams, including players and managers, began to break out. The referee ended the game as injury time expired while arguments were getting heated, averting further trouble.
Now Municipal have to beat Santos in Mexico to guarantee a pass to the next round. Meanwhile, the Crew also need a win against Joe Public to guarantee advancement. Santos can guarantee themselves a place with just a tie, but Joe Public is already eliminated.