Soccer  > General Soccer  > Crew has quarterfinals within grasp again
September 28, 2010, 11:19 AM
The Columbus Crew bill themselves as America's "hardest working team." It's also one of the most consistently solid sides in Major League Soccer, and a win or draw at Municipal on Wednesday can further that reputation by sending it to the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals for a second straight year.

After a 1-0 win against Santos last week, Columbus pulled out a 2-2 draw against the New England Revolution in domestic play Saturday night, rallying from a two-goal deficit on goals by Steven Lenhart and Guillermo Barros Schelotto in the final half hour at Gillette Stadium.

The result keeps Columbus one point in front of surging New York atop the Eastern Conference standings and has the Crew feeling good en route to a midweek trip to Guatemala. In fact, Columbus can book its ticket to the knockout stage and the MLS Cup playoffs in the span of a few days.

"We were dissatisfied that we gave up a goal at the beginning, but we fought back after that and created some chances," Lenhart told MLSsoccer.com referring to the draw with New England. "We showed we had fight and a little bit of character. We did good to get back in it and salvage a tie. We're all right with that."

The Crew defeated Municipal 1-0 at Columbus in both team's group stage opener on August 18 with Emmanuel Ekpo scoring the lone goal in the 14th minute.

Santos, second in Group B with seven points, can gain access into the knockout stage with a victory against winless Joe Public at home and a draw or loss by Municipal.

The Mexican side is coming off a 3-2 loss to America at Estadio Azteca on Sunday , allowing three straight goals in 15 minutes midway through the first half before Fernando Arce pulled Santos within a goal four minutes before halftime..

"When you lose playing well, with the attitude that the team had, of course it hurts," Santos manager Ruben Omar Romano said after the match. "But [Guillermo] Ochoa had a spectacular performance, was the hero for his team."

Santos remained in second place in Group 1 of the Mexican Apertura with 18 points from nine matches, one point behind Monterrey.

After opening the season with six straight wins and victories in eight of its first nine in all competitions, Santos has sagged, winning only of its last five - including a loss and a draw in its last two Champions League outings, both on the road.

It will be home for its last two Champions League games at Estadio Corona Wednesday against a Joe Public squad already eliminated from quarterfinal contention. In the previous meeting on August 18, Los Guerreros went to Trinidad and won 5-2 with Jose Maria Cardenas striking for four goals, while Juan Carlos Enriquez added one.

Municipal, third in Group B with five points from four matches, needs a result against Columbus and/or some help from Joe Public. As long as it can stay within three points of Santos going into the final round, a win against the Mexican side in Torreon on October 19 would send it to the last eight.

It cruised to a 3-0 victory against Penarol on Sunday at Estadio Mateo Flores. Mario Rodriguez scored twice and Diego Alfonso added a goal in the 75th minute for Municipal, which sits atop the Guatemalan Apertura with 22 points, four better than second-place Juventud Retalteca.

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