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Patrick Schulte saves two PKs, Columbus Crew earns historic CONCACAF win over Tigres

Columbus Crew goalkeeper Patrick Schulte made amends for an early error in the second leg of his team’s CONCACAF Champions Cup quarterfinal at Mexican power Tigres, saving two penalties in a shootout to lead the Crew to a 4-3 win on PKs after a 1-1 draw, 2-2 on aggregate, at the Estadio Volcan in Monterrey, Mexico.

The defending MLS Cup champions will face either Lionel Messi’s Inter Miami or Tigres’ crosstown rival CF Monterrey in the semifinal. Those two teams play the second leg of their quarterfinal on Wednesday evening.

“We knew that it was going to be difficult, because we play away, with a big crowd,” head coach Wilfried Nancy. “The way we’ve been since I took over, is it’s all about us. At the end of the day, we try to play our football. I believe that when you do good stuff, you’re going to get the result.”



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The win is the first time an MLS team has defeated a team from Liga MX in a penalty shootout in Mexico, and also marks a rare victorious moment of any type for MLS against its Liga MX counterparts in CONCACAF’s regional competition. MLS teams had won just 17 of 68 previous two-legged ties against Liga MX opposition in the Champions Cup and its antecedents, including a 5-32 mark with the second leg in Mexico, as it was in Columbus vs. Tigres.

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Tigres could easily have been up by more in the first half (Azael Rodriguez/Getty Images)

But as hard as a Columbus triumph might have been to envision based purely on past records, Schulte becoming the game’s hero was even harder to predict based on the first few minutes of the match. It took just three minutes for the goalkeeper to get caught while trying to turn with the ball at his feet under pressure, gifting Tigres striker Andre-Pierre Gignac a goal at the Volcan, commonly considered to be one of the hardest places to play in North America.

“This team’s really close,” Schulte said after the match. “And after that (mistake), it was obviously disappointing. But you know, they kind of picked me up.”

The Crew withstood many other close calls after that point, but slowly grew into the game and made multiple big defensive plays to keep the score to 1-0, 2-1 on aggregate. Schulte himself made six saves over the rest of the match..

Diego Rossi finally brought Columbus level in the 59th minute, coolly finishing a mis-controlled ball off the foot of Mohamed Farsi.



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As extra time passed without a goal and penalties arrived, Schulte wasted no time making up for his error.

“When we got to penalties (my teammates) all came to me in the circle and were like ‘Alright, this is your moment. Go take advantage of it,’” Schulte said afterward. “I knew I was gonna face five penalties and just had confidence that I was gonna get at least two and give us the best chance of winning.”

The 23-year-old goalkeeper, who had never saved a penalty kick before in his professional career, tallied his first stop ever with a terrific outstretched rejection low and to his right on Gignac to put Tigres under pressure early in the shootout.

Schulte followed that up with another stop, this time low and to his left, from Tigres’ Guido Pizarro.

“I’m not surprised, to be honest with you. This is not easy what I’m asking him to do,” Nancy said afterward, referencing how Schulte came back from his early error. “The first question people ask me is ‘do you think that Pat is going to be able to keep going?’ And I say ‘why you think like this? Let’s see.’ I’m really happy for him, because I know he was really, really disappointed when he conceded the goal.”

With those two stops in hand, the Crew was able to withstand Cucho Hernandez’s miss on the fourth attempt, meaning the winning penalty fell to winger Max Arfsten, a relatively unheralded 22-year-old winger. Like Schulte, he stepped up when needed and buried his spot kick to send Columbus to the semifinals.

After all that history, a matchup with Lionel Messi could await, depending on how things go on Wednesday.

Felipe Cardenas and Pablo Maurer contributed to this report.

(Top photo: Azael Rodriguez/Getty Images)

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