Recap: Crew vs. Santos Laguna
The Columbus Crew were literally seconds from recording a heroic draw on Mexican soil Tuesday night. But Santos Laguna got a goal from reserve defender Jorge Estrada in the 93rd minute to stun a game but short-handed Crew 1-0 at Estadio Corona in the second round of Group B play in the CONCACAF Champions League.
Estrada's winner bounced off several Columbus players in the final seconds of play, as his shot from distance found enough space to send the Crew to their fourth loss in as many tries in Mexico in franchise history.
Columbus were scrambling to cover while defender Shaun Francis was tended to off the field with a leg cramp to cap a bizarre but typical game south of the border.
The Crew thought they had taken the lead in the 23rd minute off Andy Iro’s snap header. But in a call that left Columbus puzzled and dismayed, the goal was overturned by Panamanian official Luis Rodríguez after it was ruled that Emilio Renteria – who delivered the perfect cross to the tall defender – had entered the field illegally.
While there was no official explanation, the CONCACAF website said Rentería tried to come onto the field in a jersey with no number after being bloodied by the elbow of Santos' Oribe Peralta.
Curiously, Rentería tried to re-enter, was stopped momentarily by the fourth official from Mexico then waved on by Rodríguez. It was just one of a number of bizarre officiating decisions by the mostly Panamanian crew.
In all, the Crew had four yellows, including time-wasting infractions on goalkeeper Andy Gruenebaum and forward Jason Garey.
Gruenebaum, making his second straight Champions League start, made six saves and kept the Crew in the match in the final third, although he had help in the 84th minute when Carlos Quintero hit the crossbar on one of several quality chances for Santos.
It was a battle of mostly second-teamers at the start. Santos completely revamped their lineup from their first Primera División loss in five matches last weekend vs. Tigres. Five Crew starters on Tuesday night have combined to play just 100 minutes in MLS this season.
The Crew left leading scorer Guillermo Barros Schelotto, top defender Chad Marshall and defender/midfielder Danny O’Rourke at home. Plus, midfielder Robbie Rogers and Gino Padula are out with knee injuries. Captain Frankie Hejduk made the trip but didn't play.
With the loss, the Crew fell to 1-1-0, while Santos (2-0-0) took the top spot in Group B. Columbus next face Joe Public of Trinidad and Tobago on Sept. 14, while Santos visit Municipal of Guatemala.