Recap: Crew vs. Santos Laguna

Mendoza's late goal puts Crew atop Group B standings

The Crew were almost too patient defensively and waited until the late stages of the match on the offensive end, but a goal from Andres Mendoza in the 87th minute was enough for a 1-0 victory over Mexico’s Santos Laguna in a Group B CONCACAF Champions League match on Tuesday.

The result gave the Crew their third win of the tournament and a two-point edge over Santos atop Group B with just two matches left in group play. It’s increasingly likely that the Crew – who avenged a 1-0 loss to Santos during the teams’ first match in Mexico on Aug. 24 – are on their way to the quarterfinals for the second straight year if they can avoid a meltdown from here on out.

Mendoza’s goal came with the help of teammate Jason Garey, as well as Santos defender Jonathan Lacerda. Garey fed a pass to Mendoza who promptly flubbed it, but the ball skipped off Lacerda and back to Mendoza, who pounced with a shot from 23 yards into the lower right corner of the goal.

Columbus improved to 3-5-1 against Mexican teams all-time in CONCACAF competitions.Both team’s next tournament games are Sept. 29 with the Crew at Municipal (Guatemala) and Santos hosting Joe Public of Trinidad.

The Crew’s best scoring chance prior to Mendoza’s goal came in the 71st minute, and was one of the few scoring chances for either team in the match. Garey outraced goalkeeper Miguel Becerra for a through ball from Emmanuel Ekpo, but his left-footed toe-poke rolled slowly across the goalmouth and out of harm’s way.

There was little action in front of the Crew net until Jose Cardenas put a free kick from 25 yards toward the right post only to see goalkeeper Andy Gruenebaum in perfect position for the easy save in the 83rd.

There’s always a question of how teams will approach these midweek matches, and Santos left leading scorer Christian Benitez at home. They did start four who also were in the first XI on Saturday for a Primera Division win over Necaxa.

For Tuesday’s match, Los Guerreros’ starting lineup had eight players who did likewise in the first meeting with the Crew on Aug. 24 as well as two substitutes who saw the field vs. Columbus. One of those reserves in Mexico was defender Jorge Estrada, who scored the only goal of the match in the 93rd minute.

The Crew had a few revisions beginning at the top with top goal scorer Guillermo Barros Schelotto on the bench alongside his partner Steven Lenhart. They were replaced by Renteria and Mendoza.

Gruenebaum started his fourth straight Champions League game for William Hesmer and rookie left back Shaun Francis returned as a starter after Danny O’Rourke got the nod Saturday vs. Seattle Sounders FC. O’Rourke is out because of back spasms.

The Crew suffered a blow in the 65th minute when Oribe Peralta kicked Chad Marshall in the head and the MLS Defender of the Year in 2008 and ’09 had to leave the match.

Scoring summary:

CLB – Andres Mendoza 87’

Misconduct summary:

CLB – Eddie Gaven (caution: delay,) 41’

SAN – Oribe Peralta (caution: dangerous play) 64’

CLB – Kevin Burns (caution: Dissent) 73’

CLB – Frankie Hejduk (caution: Reckless tackle) 93’

Lineups:

SANTOS – Miguel Becerra; Jorge “Ivan” Estrada, Rafael Figueroa, Juan Santiago, Jose Olvera (Jose Cardenas, 65’); Jaime Toledo, Francisco Torres (Fernando Arce, 71’) Jonathan Lacerda; Rodrigo Ruiz, Oribe Peralta, Carlos Quintero (Daniel Luduena, 46’).

COLUMBUS – Andy Gruenebaum; Frankie Hejduk, Chad Marshall (Eric Brunner, 67’), Andy Iro, Shaun Francis; Emmanuel Ekpo, Kevin Burns, Brian Carroll, Eddie Gaven; Emilio Renteria (Jason Garey, 46’), Andres Mendoza (Steven Lenhart, 88’).

Referee: Courtney Campbell

Referee's Assistants: Anthony Garwood, Ricardo Morgan

4th Official: Baldomero Toledo

Weather: Partly cloudy, 86 degrees

Attendance: 6,298