10 great moments in CONCACAF Champions League history
MLSsoccer.com's David Agrell looks back through the years of the CONCACAF Champions League and its predecessor – the CONCACAF Champions' Cup – and offers up 10 great moments in the tournament's storied history.
D.C. United are first for MLS
The Black-and-Red became the first-ever team from the United States to hoist the regional trophy on Aug. 16, 1998—just a little over two years after the formation of MLS. Eddie Pope netted the winner to help United edge Mexico's Toluca 1-0 at RFK Stadium, and the win iced a terrific run from the quarterfinals to the championship game that saw the MLS heavyweights outscore their opponents 11-0.
Olimpia make history at Estadio Azteca
Holding Cruz Azul scoreless at home was impressive enough, but Honduran side CD Olimpia went one better in the second leg of the fourth round of the 1988 edition of the Champions' Cup. Facing the Mexican giants at Estadio Azteca, the Lions pulled off a shocking 2-1 win to become the first—and still the only—Central American side to beat a Mexican team at the famed stadium. Olimpia went on to win the tournament.
Houston and Pachuca's dramatic showdown
The Dynamo took an impressive 2-0 advantage into the second leg of the 2007 semifinals against Mexico's Pachuca. A non-eventful scoreless tie would be all they needed to progress to the final, but they got anything but that. Pachuca tied things up within 15 minutes, and the two teams proceeded to trade goals until the Gophers nicked the winner midway through extra time to bounce the Dynamo 5-4 on aggregate.
Santos ruin Montreal's party
The USL's Montreal Impact were just two minutes from claiming a semifinal berth in the 2008-09 Champions League. Having won the first leg in Montreal 2-0, the Impact looked certain to proceed despite trailing 3-2 deep into stoppage time at Santos Laguna's home in Torreón, Mexico. However, Santos' Carlos Darwin Quintero netted in the 92nd and 95th minutes to not only break Montreal's heart, but smash it into tiny pieces.
Impact fill the park in Montreal
Despite being bounced from the quarterfinals in a gut-wrenching fashion, it wasn't all doom and gloom for the Montreal Impact during the 2008-09 campaign. The team set both a club and a CONCACAF Champions League attendance record in the first leg of the quarterfinal series against Mexican side Santos Laguna when 55,571 fans came out to the Olympic Stadium to see the Impact defeat Santos 2-0. It was a watershed moment that no doubt had a huge, er, impact on Montreal being named an MLS expansion city for 2012.
Cruz Azul's stunning comeback
The Puerto Rico Islanders seemed poised to earn a place in the finals of the 2008-09 competition, carrying a 2-0 lead into the second leg of the semifinal series against Mexican giants Cruz Azul. However, la Máquina Celeste, who were down to 10 men, clawed back to earn a 2-0 win and force extra time. The Islanders edged in front, but once again, the Mexicans pulled even before snatching the series in a shootout.
Pachuca's last-gasp winner
The championship game of the 2009-10 tournament was an all-Mexican affair for the fourth time in five years. Reigning champions Pachuca faced Cruz Azul, who were just seconds away from claiming the CONCACAF crown as they carried a 2-1 lead deep into the second leg. However, Pachuca's Édgar Benítez struck three minutes into stoppage time to earn his side the trophy thanks to the away-goals rule.
LA notch No. 2 for MLS
Just two years after D.C. United earned their title, the LA Galaxy collected theirs, which undoubtedly put MLS on the map as a serious league in the CONCACAF region. Having dispatched of Honduras' Real España and D.C. United via PK shootouts, the Galaxy edged CD Olimpia 3-2 in a back-and-forth championship game at the Rose Bowl. Ezra Hendrickson tallied a brace for LA; Cobi Jones added another.
Árabe Unido shock Pachuca
Panamanian minnows Árabe Unido had done enough in simply qualifying for the group stages of the 2009-10 Champions League. However, they tallied one of the great shocks in modern CCL history, stuffing Mexican Clausura 2009 runners-up Pachuca 4-1 in front of barely 1,000 fans in Colón. Weeks later, MLS' Houston Dynamo thrashed the Panama champs 5-1 and Pachuca finished the tournament as champions.
Puerto Rico embarrass the Galaxy
League-leading LA were suddenly looking fragile in the weeks following the 2010 World Cup, so the heavily unfavored Puerto Rico Islanders visited Carson, Calif., fancying their chances. The D2 side made the most of each and every scoring opportunity, netting all four shots on goal to shock their MLS opponents 4-1. LA managed a 2-1 win in the return leg, but it wasn't enough to earn a place in the 2010-11 group stages.