Columbus Crew head coach Caleb Porter praised his players after defeating Liga MX side Cruz Azul 2-0 in the Campeones Cup final to lift their first international trophy in the club’s 26-year history.
While the Crew sits in ninth place of the Eastern Conference table with 34 points in 27 matches and two spots away from qualifying to the MLS playoffs, the team finally gave their fans something to celebrate on Wednesday night.
Porter adopted a 5-4-1 formation to calmly defend and outwit the reigning Liga MX champions at Lower.com Field, with a goal by forward Jonathan Mensah sealing the deal in the 74th minute.
“We knocked off one of North America's best teams,” said Porter postgame.
Cruz Azul stands as the fourth most decorated team in the Mexican league with nine Primera Division titles, while their six Concacaf Champions League trophies makes them the second-most successful sides in the tournament’s history.
“They’re an extremely good team, extremely talented, when you look at their budget – and they played the best guys. They played all their best guys. Obviously they brought Santiago Gimenez and Jonathan Rodriguez off the bench, but that's a heck of a team, and I thought defensively we really didn't give them a lot of clear looks the entire game.
“We defended a ton of crosses, obviously, but I thought the shape worked really well for the game that we knew we'd have to play. And it's about winning, you know? And I'm so proud of the players, that we were able to put another trophy in the trophy case.”
Porter admitted he hoped the match would boost confidence and propel momentum as the team heads into the final weeks of the MLS regular season, and it did just that.
"A trophy's a trophy. Anytime you can win one, you got to win it," Caleb Porter said. "When you have a chance to knock off a team like that, Liga MX champion last year, it's just a great win. And it'll help us with confidence, belief."