Soccer  > General Soccer  > Crew, Santos gird for latest cross-border clash
August 24, 2010, 10:46 AM
A year ago the Columbus Crew were the lone Major League Soccer team to advance to the knockout stage of the CONCACAF Champions League. On Wednesday night they'll attempt to become the first MLS squad to travel to Mexico and win when they face Santos Laguna in a matchup of Group B leaders.

American teams, both domestic and national, have struggled south of the border and the Crew is no exception. In last year's Group Stage, Columbus were thrashed by eventual finalist Cruz Azul 5-0 at Estadio Azul and lost 3-2 to Toluca at Estadio Nemesio Diez in the second leg of the quarterfinals. That led to a 5-4 aggregate defeate after rallying to tie the first leg 2-2.

Steven Lenhart, who scored both goals in the Crew's quarterfinal draw last year, missed the team's opening Group Stage match, serving a one-game suspension for a red card in the second leg in Mexico. Columbus will also be buoyed by Guillermo Barros Schelotto and Andy Iro, who acquired a waiver from the United States government and were to join their teammates Monday on a flight to Mexico.

"[Santos] is a very tough place to play," Columbus coach Robert Warzycha said after his team defeated Municipal 1-0 on Matchday 1. "They are a very good team. It will be a good test."

Columbus returned to MLS play Saturday and defeated the Colorado Rapids 3-1, with Schelotto, Jason Garey and Lenhart scoring for the Crew, which trail the Los Angeles Galaxy by one point in the race for the MLS Supporters Shield.

Santos, which beat Joe Public, 5-2, Wednesday night in Macoya thanks to four goals by Jose Maria Cardenas, is coming off its first loss in the Mexican Apertura, 1-0 to Tigres on Saturday at Estadio Universitario. Juninho scored the lone goal in the eighth minute as Santos suffered its first defeat in after four consecutive wins.

Municipal and Joe Public will look to bounce back from losses in the first round when they meet at Estadio Mateo Flores in Guatemala City Thursday night.

Joe Public is hoping the signing of CONCACAF Champions League veteran Gayson Gregory, who played the Montreal Impact in the inaugural campaign two years ago, will strengthen its squad.

"We are hoping that he would give us depth up front," Eastern Lions coach Derek King said. "He brings added experience to the team. We are now in the Group Stage and having him in our team will be a plus."

This is the attacking midfielder's third stint with Joe Public. He previously played for Joe Public from 2001-03 and again in 2005. He also competed for San Juan Jabloteh in 2007-08 before joining Montreal.

"It wasn't a hard decision to make when I was approached by Joe Public," Gregory told the league's official web site. "I believe that I can fit into the present formation of the team and help the club do well in the Champions League and defend its [Digicel Pro] League title."

Municipal, meanwhile, will look to bounce back not just from a 1-0 loss to Columbus last week in the CONCACAF Champions League, but also a 2-0 defeat to Xinabajul Saturday in Guatemalan Apertura. Municipal is third in the 12-team table with seven points from four matches.

Consecutive losses in the CONCACAF Champions League, though, would be a major blow to either team's hopes of advancing to the knockout stage.

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