Crew draw Toluca 2-2 in CCL

Lenhart, Columbus rally on Mexicans in quarterfinal in first leg

Steven Lenhart scored two sensational goals in the quarterfinal first leg.

Photo Credit: 
Greg Bartram/MLS via Getty Images

Toluca scored twice before the break but Steven
Lenhart countered in the second half to lead the Crew to a 2-2 tie in the first
leg of their CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal series on Tuesday.

The Crew still face a daunting task in the return match of the
two-game, total-goal series March 17 at Toluca because away goals count in the
tiebreaker. MLS teams have lost 10 of 11 knockout series to Mexican clubs in
the competition.

Lenhart cut the deficit to 2-1 in the 66th minute then
nailed the equalizer in the 84th off an assist from recently subbed in Emilio
Rentería.

Both of Lenhart’s goals were from 13 yards on the right side
of the box. The first went high and the second low to the back of the netting
to cap the rally.

Columbus had large chunks of the possession but one good
counter and a brilliant shot from a broken play gave Toluca the halftime lead
on goals by Antonio “Zinha” Naelson in the 19th minute and Antonio Ríos in the
45th.

Lenhart put the Crew on the board with an exquisite strike
moments after the second skirmish of the second half that had players
nose-to-nose before cooler heads prevailed.

Toluca was cruising until the golden-mopped Lenhart took a
cross from Emmanuel Ekpo with his back toward to the goal. Lenhart chested the ball
then sent a volley to the back of the net past stunned goalkeeper Alfedo
Talavera.

Toluca is the current full-season champion in Mexico while
the Crew had the best regular-season record in MLS the past two seasons but were
no match for the game-tested Diablos Rojos, who are nine games (2-2-5) into
their season. Columbus went 5-0-3 in its preseason schedule in Arizona and
Florida.

The Crew were missing defenders Chad Marshall (hamstring)
and Jed Zayner (knee) as well as suspended midfielders Guillermo Barros
Schelotto – the Crew’s top scorer last season with 14 goals – and U.S. defender
Frankie Hejduk. The latter two will be eligible for the second leg.

Still, Columbus had a veteran lineup beginning with
goalkeeper William Hesmer. Midfielder Dilly Duka, the eight pick in the 2010
MLS SuperDraft, was the only rookie to dress for the Crew but he didn’t play,
nor did recently acquired Colombian forward Sergio Herrera.

Toluca started five players who had not played in a Mexican
league match this season but did use first-team keeper Talavera. However, top
goal producer Héctor Mancilla sat on the bench.

After a long feeling out period, Toluca struck first. Zinha
took a one-touch pass from Raúl Nava heading into the final third to create an
odd-man attack. Zinha moved into the box and used Danny O’Rourke as a screen to
drive the ball into the lower left netting past diving goalkeeper William
Hesmer.

Adam Moffat went for the equalizer seven minutes later only
to have his shot from 28 yards skitter past the right post by a foot. Moffat
also drilled a ball from 35 yards in the 32nd minute that Talavera knocked away
with his right hand as the shot was headed inside the left pipe.

The Crew continued to press, especially with the swift
Robbie Rogers exploiting the left flank. In the 38th minute, he cut left to
right through traffic and laid a ball off to Eddie Gaven at the top of the
penalty area but Gaven’s open strike was nowhere near the goal.

A miss like that often comes back to haunt a team and the
Crew felt the sting in the 45th minute when Vladimir Marín sent a cross into
the goal area where Crew defender Eric Brunner and Nava went up for the
challenge. Brunner got the better of the aerial battle but the ball was cleared
to the right foot of Ríos. He stepped into the ball and blasted a rising shot from
25 yards.

Rogers was denied by Talavera in the opening minutes of the
second half but the game quickly turned heated with the Crew’s Danny O’Rourke
and Marin earning cautions in the 64th minute.

Weather was not the factor the Crew had hoped it would be.
Instead of subfreezing weather for the visitors from Mexico, the kickoff
temperature was 55 degrees and there were few remnants of the 20-inch snow
depth that blanketed Columbus last week.

The Champions League is a tournament for 24 clubs from
regions representing North and Central America and the Caribbean.

Two quarterfinal series begin Wednesday with Pumas UNAM of
Mexico at Honduras' Marathón and Mexico’s Pachuca at Guatemala's Comunicaciones.
Cruz Azul of Mexico hosts Panama's Árabe Unido on Thursday.