The Greatest Comebacks in the History of the CONCACAF Champions League

The Greatest Comebacks in the History of the CONCACAF Champions League

Manuel Veth –

The 2018 CONCACAF Champions League is the 10th edition of the tournament in its current guise. The elite competition for clubs playing in countries based in North America, Central America, and Caribbean has produced many classic moments over the years. Here are the greatest comebacks ever from the tournament so far.

Puerto Rico Islanders 2-1 Alajuelense, CONCACAF Champions League Preliminary Round 2nd Leg, 3rd September, 2008

During the preliminary round of the first season of the CONCACAF’s elite competition being re-branded from the Champions’ Cup to the Champions League, late drama created a memorable finale to one match. Puerto Rico Islanders had been held to a 1-1 draw away to Costa Rican side Alajuelense. The second leg threw up a shock as the travelling team took a 1-0 lead Ariel Rodriguez in the 5th minute. As the clock ticked down, hopes of progressing appeared to be vanishing for the Islanders. However, two goals in the last 3 minutes turned the tie on its head. Kendall Jagdeosingh scored the equalizer in the 87th minute before Taiwo Atieno sealed the 3-2 win on aggregate in the 89th minute. Cue absolute scenes around the stands of the Estadio Juan Ramon Loubriel.

Santos Laguna 5-2 Montreal Impact, CONCACAF Champions League Quarter-Final 2nd Leg, 5th March, 2009

The 2008/09 competition also saw a stunning fight back in the Quarter-Final between Mexican club Santos Laguna and MLS side Montreal Impact. The Canadian team took a 2-0 lead into the second leg at the Estadio Corona. Santos Laguna looked set to pull the game back with a goal by Christian Benitez after just 16 minutes. Montreal responded perfectly with an equalizer just 8 minutes later through Roberto Brown. This was followed by a second goal for the Impact by Eduardo Sebrango just before half-time to make it 4-1 to Montreal on aggregate. All hope seemed lost for the Mexican side. Vicente Matias Vuoso gave the home side a spark of hope with a goal just 7 minutes after the interval to reduce the deficit. Santos Laguna still required three goals to win the tie. Vuoso grabbed his second of the game with just 15 minutes remaining to take the aggregate score to 4-3. Carlos Quintero then wrote himself into Santos Laguna folklore with a brace of goals in the 2nd and 5th minutes of injury time to give his team the 5-4 aggregate victory against all the odds.

W Connection 2-2 UNAM, CONCACAF Champions League Group Stage, September 16, 2009

In terms of epic goal-scoring fiestas and massive turnarounds, this game is not exactly the most prolific. The fact that makes this such an impressive comeback is that UNAM not only had to pick themselves up off the deck once but twice in the closing minutes of the game. Trinidad and Tobago club W Connection were heading for a famous 1-0 win thanks to Jonathan Fana’s 21st minute opener. That was until Victor Rosales pulled the scores level at 1-1 with just 3 minutes remaining. The home side then regained the lead through Renato Pereira in the 89th minute. However, the Mexicans would not be denied with Paco Palencia equalizing in the 2nd minute of injury time to complete a two-phase comeback.

Cruz Azul 5-4 Real Salt Lake, CONCACAF Champions League Group Stage, August 25, 2010

It is not often that a nine-goal thriller is decided with four of the goals coming in the final 3 minutes of the game. Well, that is exactly what happened when Mexican team Cruz Azul played MLS side Real Salt Lake at the historic Estadio Azul in Mexico City in 2010. The US franchise found themselves 3-1 up with just 14 minutes left on the clock. Mexican striker Javier Orozco scored three times in the 76th, 87th, and 89th minute to give his side a stunning 4-3 lead. It looked like Real Salt Lake had snatched a last minute equalizer when Will Johnson scored in the 2nd minute of added-on time. It was not to be. Less than a minute later, Christian Gimenez popped up with a winner to send the home fans into a total state of euphoria.

Cruz Azul came from behind to beat Real Salt Lake 5-4 in the group stage of the CONCACAF Champions League. (Photo by George Frey/Getty Images)

Cruz Azul came from behind to beat Real Salt Lake 5-4 in the group stage of the CONCACAF Champions League. (Photo by George Frey/Getty Images)

Puerto Rico Islanders 3-2 Toluca, CONCACAF Champions League Group Stage, September 29, 2010

Puerto Rico Islanders were back at their epic comebacks once again in the 2010/11 season. On this occasion, they suffered an early 2-0 deficit to Mexican club Toluca. Hector Mancilla had given the away side the solid lead with an early brace in the opening 23 minutes. The home team were not going to lie down and give in. David Foley halved the lead in the 54th minute. David Horst then levelled the game in the 70th minute. The unlikely winner came when Horst bagged his second of the game in injury time to give his team the 3-2 win.

Monterrey 4-2 Santos Laguna, CONCACAF Champions League Final 2nd Leg, 1st May, 2013

The 2012/13 edition of the CONCACAF Champions League featured an all-Mexican Final. Monterrey and Santos Laguna had played out an underwhelming 0-0 draw in the first leg of their hotly-anticipated encounter. The second leg was an entirely different affair. Santos Laguna took a 2-0 lead with goals by Carlos Quintero and Felipe Baloy. The lead was reduced with just 30 minutes left from Aldo de Nigris. Neri Cardozo then pulled the scores level with 6 minutes remaining. The comeback was complete when de Nigris got his second of the game in the 87th minute. Humberto Suazo added a fourth goal in injury time to seal the win and hand Monterrey their third consecutive title.

Montego Bay United 3-3 D.C. United, CONCACAF Champions League Group Stage, September 22, 2015

D.C. United spared their blushes back in 2015 when they travelled to Jamaica to play Montego Bay United in their group stage clash. Across the world, all the major sports betting sites had the MLS side down as the firm favourites. Bookies were backing the reigning MLS champions to destroy the minnows at the Montego Bay Sports Complex. This expectation was quickly vanquished when Montego Bay United stormed into a 3-0 lead after 50 minutes. D.C. United were shell-shocked. Fortunately, the club avoided humiliation by scoring three goals in the second half including an equalizer through Michael Farfan in the 3rd minute of injury time. The draw failed to prevent D.C. United from progressing to the next stage of the competition but it left online sports betting operators with huge smiles on their faces with the underdogs holding the favorites.

Olimpia 4-4 Pachuca, CONCACAF Champions League Group Stage, October 19, 2016

The group stage of the 2016/17 competition witnessed one of the most awe-inspiring late comebacks in recent years. Mexican side Pachuca seemed to be cruising to a well-earned 4-2 win away to Honduras club Olimpia. Only 8 minutes remained on the clock when legendary Honduran striker Carlos Costly scored to make it 4-3. The impossible then became reality when midfielder Carlos Mejia converted a dramatic penalty in the last minute of the game to snatch the most unlikely 4-4 draw. 

US's FC Dallas player Walker Zimmerman reacts after being defeated by Mexico's Pachua during their CONCACAF Champions League Semi-final football match at the Hidalgo stadium in Hidalgo, Mexico on April 4, 2017. (YURI CORTEZ/AFP/Getty Images)

US’s FC Dallas player Walker Zimmerman reacts after being defeated by Mexico’s Pachua during their CONCACAF Champions League Semi-final football match at the Hidalgo stadium in Hidalgo, Mexico on April 4, 2017. (YURI CORTEZ/AFP/Getty Images)

Pachuca 3-1 FC Dallas, CONCACAF Champions League Semi-Final 2nd Leg, April 4, 2017

The most recent great comeback in the CONCACAF Champions League came in last season’s edition. MLS side FC Dallas took a 2-1 first leg lead into their second leg away to Mexican team Pachuca. The Mexicans were in no mood for messing around. A 38th minute goal from Franco Jara and an 80th minute conversion by Hirving Lozano appeared to flip the tie on its head and give Pachuca a 3-2 aggregate lead. Late drama saw Cristian Colman score for FC Dallas to level the tie on aggregate at 3-3. Pachuca were relentless. Despite letting that gut-wrenching goal get the better of them they retaliated with a winning goal through Lozano in injury time to take them to the Final which they would go on to win their fifth title.

Manuel Veth is the owner and Editor in Chief of the Futbolgrad Network. He also works as a freelance journalist and among others works for the Bundesliga and Pro Soccer USA. He holds a Doctorate of Philosophy in History from King’s College London, and his thesis is titled: “Selling the People’s Game: Football’s transition from Communism to Capitalism in the Soviet Union and its Successor States,” which will be available in print soon. Originally from Munich, Manuel has lived in Amsterdam, Kyiv, Moscow, Tbilisi, London, and currently is located in Victoria BC, Canada.  Follow Manuel on Twitter @ManuelVeth. Or contact him via email: [email protected]