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What we learned from Crew’s CONCACAF loss to Pachuca and what’s next

COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — The Columbus Crew fell one match short of a historic first continental cup trophy. The Black & Gold fell to C.F. Pachuca Saturday night 3-0 in the CONCACAF Champions Cup final at Estadio Hidalgo in its first final in a continental tournament.

While the match was lopsided, the Crew can walk away from this CONCACAF journey with some confidence going into the rest of the season. Columbus will now shift focus back to MLS play and might have a sliver of a chance to make their Club World Cup dreams come true.

Here are a few takeaways after the Crew’s loss to Pachuca in the CONCACAF Champions Cup final.

Pachuca’s home field helps tip the scales

Pachuca proved on Saturday they are a better team than the Crew but certainly proved again the difficulty of playing at Estadio Hidalgo. Los Tuzos played a phenomenal game in many facets with defenders able to close down on Crew attackers during breakaways and the midfield’s organization leading the team in both defense and attack.

Salomon Rondon proved his ability in this match as Venezuela’s all-time goalscorer was able to pierce through the Columbus backline and use his poise and strength to score two goals. Columbus certainly could not get its foot on the gas pedal like we are used to seeing in the Nancy-era and lacked energy after conceding in the 12th minute.

One of the major factors for that lack of energy was the altitude in Pachuca, which sits at nearly 8,000 feet. Compared to Columbus (800 feet of elevation), a person gets 25% less oxygen in Pachuca compared to central Ohio. That likely is a reason Pachuca has never lost a home match in CONCACAF play.

Crew’s silver medal finish historic

Despite the defeat in the final, the Black & Gold still have a lot of positive moments to look back on from this tournament. Columbus entered this CONCACAF Champions Cup having not gotten past the quarterfinals, but broke that streak with its historic win at Tigres.

The penalty shootout win over Tigres in Mexico gave the Crew the first penalty shootout win for an MLS club in Mexico over a Mexican team. A few weeks later, Columbus went to Monterrey after a 2-1 win in Columbus and thrashed Rayados 3-1 to make the final. Last time they played in 2021, Monterrey won 3-0 at home and dominated.

Those victories in Mexico got the Crew the top coefficient ranking in CONCACAF, something that had not been previously achieved by an MLS club before. Losing the final will leave a sour taste at the end but the journey can be remembered fondly as the years go by.

What remains in this 2024 season?

Columbus can now focus fully on defending MLS Cup, returning back to league play sitting in sixth place in the Eastern Conference. The Crew’s placement in the standings will be deceiving for the next few months as the club has multiple games in hand due to CONCACAF play.

Among teams in the East entering June, the Crew had the least losses with two and will return to MLS play on a three-game winning streak. Outside of MLS action, the Black & Gold will play in the Leagues Cup again and already are in the round of 32 as the defending MLS Cup champions.

The team is guaranteed to play for at least one more trophy when the Crew host Club America in the Campeones Cup sometime in August or September. The one-off match pits the MLS and Liga MX champions in an annual final, which the Crew won in 2021 over Cruz Azul.

Is a Club World Cup spot still possible?

With the Crew’s loss, only two MLS teams will go to next year’s FIFA Club World Cup in the United States. The Seattle Sounders will be one of the representatives as the 2022 winners of the CONCACAF tournament while a second team will be chosen later.

The method of how that team will be chosen has yet to be determined. If a method based on performance is chosen, whether for this season or over multiple seasons, that could benefit the Crew and give them the spot.

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