Crew F Hernández set to return for CCC final

The Columbus Crew welcome the return of star forward Cucho Hernández when to play Pachuca in Mexico for the final of the Concacaf Champions Cup on Saturday.

Hernández, the 2023 MLS Cup MVP, missed the past three league matches due to a sore back while the Crew rolled off road victories in each. He has four goals and an assist in nine MLS matches and two goals in five Champions Cup appearances.

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“The idea is he’s going to be available. He wants to have a good game and we want that also,” Crew coach Wilfried Nancy said. “We are all happy that he’s back and hopefully he’s going to be able to have a good performance.”

Saturday’s winner qualifies for the 2025 FIFA Club World Cup next summer in the United States. The 32-team field includes renowned clubs such Manchester City, Chelsea, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, River Plate, Flamengo and Inter Milan.

The Crew can use all the help it can get to defeat Pachuca, which has won all five of their previous finals of the Champions Cup (the former Champions League) in 2002, 2007, 2008, 2010 and 2017.

Columbus seeks to become the second MLS team in the modern era to win the Champions Cup (Seattle Sounders, 2022). Since 2011, Real Salt Lake, CF Montreal, Toronto FC and Los Angeles FC lost in the finals when it was aggregate goals over two matches.

D.C. United (1998) and the Los Angeles Galaxy (2000) won previous versions of the tournament.

“I think it’s a good moment for the team,” said Crew forward Diego Rossi, who has three goals in six Champions Cup appearances this season. “Obviously it’s a different competition, but I think the team is good, working hard. For me, it’s the most important thing to go and have a great game there in the final.”

The match will be played at Estadio Hidalgo, which sits 7,979 feet above sea level. Crew players were given altitude tents for home use and trained with elevation training masks.

“We’re just trying to get as acclimated as we can,” Crew captain Darlington Nagbe said. “Every little bit helps. At the end of the day, though, altitude is altitude. It’s two good teams playing against each other.”

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