Four months after winning MLS Cup and earning a spot in CONCACAF Champions League, the Crew finally can test itself against a top team.
CF Monterrey, the four-time champion of the tournament, plays the Crew at Crew Stadium for the first leg of the quarterfinals at 8:30 p.m. Wednesday and has much of the same roster that won Champions League in 2019.
The Crew has never made the semifinals of Champions League, but the club hasn’t had a roster this talented. Coach Caleb Porter will see how his team stacks up against one of the premier teams in the region.
For a better understanding of what the Crew could see from Monterrey, The Dispatch spoke to two writers covering Liga MX —freelance journalist Cesar Hernandez and SB Nation writer Charlie Assam.
What Hernandez and Assam agreed on is that Monterrey might be the deepest, most talented team in Liga MX, but it has looked vulnerable in recent weeks with three straight losses in league play, including to rival Tigres UANL.
“This is a team that’s clearly really talented. This is a team that clearly has a huge amount of firepower,” Hernandez said. “They really haven’t been passing the eye test. They don’t seem to really be entering the final third as often as they used to. And the team has looked a little out of sync.”
Forward Rogelio Funes Mori is the focal point of the attack, and attacking midfielder Maxi Mesa might be one of the best chance creators in Liga MX. However, Mesa, backup striker Vincent Janssen and midfielder Alfonso Gonzalez did not travel and will rest for the first leg of the quarterfinal with an important league game this weekend.
What the move also suggests is coach Javier Aguirre is trusting that his group has enough to manage a result before hosting the second leg on May 5. Midfielder Carlos Rodriguez, perhaps Monterrey’s best overall player, could play higher and be the player on the ball most in the attack.
“What’s astounding about Monterrey is really their depth,” Hernandez said.
Monterrey prefers to attack with passes from the back defenders over top the opponent’s defense. While Funes Mori and others have been lamented lately for missing chances, this is still arguably the best attacking team the Crew will face this season.
“All around, their starting 11, I would dare to say about five or six really, really talented, dangerous guys, especially up front,” Assam said. “I think they’re the most dangerous team in the league when it comes to attacking.”
Hernandez said he expects Monterrey to target wingers Aviles Hurtado and Dorlan Pabon in the attack.
Cesar Montes and Sebastian Vegas lead a back line that has allowed the second-fewest goals in Liga MX this season.
Hernandez said it’s only a matter of time before Montes receives interest from European clubs, but Assam said Montes hasn’t played well lately, giving up a free header on a couple of occasions to a Tigres striker this past weekend.