This is the final installment in our "most important goals" series. Here's the collection so far:
- The most important regular-season goals in MLS history
- The most important postseason goals in MLS history
- The most important MLS Cup goals in MLS history
Today, we're looking at the most important MLS goals in Concacaf Champions League history. I am doing this purely to torture poor Andrew Wiebe, who lives and dies with the CCL each spring.
Away we go:
1. Seba is the Tigres King
The context here is obviously important. Tigres were the best team in Mexico not only in 2017, but for most of the past decade. They were a steamroller who were expected to win every game they played, and to do so comfortably. They were definitely expected to smash meagre MLS opponents, especially after somehow losing 2-1 in the first leg in Canada.
A Rafael Carioca goal made it 3-1 Reds on aggregate in the 64th minute. Four minutes later, Edu Vargas made it 3-2. There were only 20 minutes left in the series, but the field had tilted and Tigres were coming. They were definitely going to get at least one more, probably two.
In the end, they did get two more as Andre Pierre-Gignac scored in the 84th minute and again two minutes into stoppage time. In the end, they needed three more, not two, because of Sebastian Giovinco's magnificent 73rd minute free kick.
That Tigres group is maybe the best team any MLS side has beaten in international competition. They're certainly the best since D.C. beat the Copa Libertadores champions, Vasco da Gama, in the 1998 Copa Interamericana. But that game came in front of 7,000 people in Florida, while this one came in front of 31,000 people at El Volcan, which might be the most intimidating atmosphere in North America.
2. The Montreal Miracle
Look at the time, look at the score, look at the pass, look at that touch(!!!), look at that finish. Listen to the crowd and the commentators. Watch Frank Klopas's legendary red card.
Is this the loudest an MLS venue has ever been? I think so. Is this the most dramatic end to a CCL series in the tournament's history? I'm pretty sure it is.
Unlike with Toronto this wasn't the culmination of a years-long build toward greatness, but a moment snatched out of the blue (no pun intended). Like Toronto, however, Montreal would go all the way to the final and would put up a pretty good fight before eventually bowing, 5-3 on aggregate, to Club America.
Cameron Porter should certainly never have to pay for a single drink in Montreal for the rest of his life.
3. Big Win for Big D
The new version of the CCL was inaugurated in 2008-09, and it mostly didn't go well for MLS teams right off the bat. Liga MX teams, with their bigger budgets, longer history and institutional know-how, were utterly dominant. MLS teams struggled to even take a point when they had to play on the road.
But still, the gap was, and still is, slowly closing. Eventually someone was going to get the first win in Mexico. That someone was FC Dallas, and the goal was an opportunistic poacher's goal from Marvin Chavez against onetime giants UNAM Pumas.
It wasn't exactly a turning point, but it was a milestone, and it mattered that it came against one of the four traditionally big clubs in Mexico. This was something of a wakeup call.
4. Traore's Stunner
This is a goal I'd remember regardless of the situation. Most professional soccer players only get to hit a ball this well once in their life – there's like a cosmic cap on the number of times you can strike a ball like that unless you are one of the gods.
Djimi Traore was a very good player, but certainly not one of the gods. But this goal was heaven-sent both in how well it was struck, and what it meant for a series that was suddenly 2-2, and with the Sounders playing up a man. If they could somehow find another goal, they'd be the first MLS team to beat a Liga MX side in an aggregate goals, home-and-home series.
Fifteen minutes later Eddie Johnson found that goal and Seattle advanced past Tigres.
5. Olave Makes #MLSforRSL a Thing
The first MLS team to make it to the CCL final was that great "The Team is the Star"-era RSL side, who got there in 2011. They topped their group (which included a 5-4 loss at Cruz Azul in what is still probably the most wild CCL game ever played), and then just stomped the Crew in the quarterfinals.
In the semifinals, they'd match up against Saprissa. As you probably know if you're reading this, going to Costa Rica and getting beat down is a rite of passage for basically every great Concacaf team, for both club and country. It's true now, and it was even more true then when the Costa Rican teams were a bit more economically competitive with Liga MX and MLS teams.
So after beating Saprissa 2-0 at home, they went down to Costa Rica and... got smacked in the face. They were down 1-0, Saprissa had all the momentum, and it felt like the equalizer was destined.
Then it wasn't. This was a colossal goal from Jamison Olave, and gave RSL enough padding to ride out the final 30 minutes and become the first MLS team to make the final.
If Fabian Espindola could've finished, they'd have become the first MLS team to win the final and one of those goals would've topped this list. Oh well.
BWP's Brace (2018)
Dallas were the first MLS team to win at a Liga MX side back in 2011. Seattle became the first MLS team to win a knockout round series vs. a Liga MX side in 2015.
In 2018, the Red Bulls – not TFC – became the first MLS team to win a knockout round game on the road at a Liga MX side.
This was probably a top three performance of Bradley Wright-Phillips' legendary RBNY career.
Oso Ends It (2018)
This was not the prettiest goal of Jonathan Osorio's 2018 CCL collection, nor was it technically the most crucial. That backheel he scored to give TFC the 2-1 home win in the first leg over Tigres is it on both counts.
But this was at Club America after a convincing 3-1 home win for Toronto in the first leg. Every MLS fan watching this game expected las Aguilas to come out and do what Liga MX teams always seem to do: early goal, tons of pressure, win the series.
It didn't happen like that. Osorio's goal made it not precisely a cake walk, but they were more or less able to put it into cruise control for the final 80 minutes and just ride it out en route to the 4-2 aggregate series win.
Rossi TBD (2019)
Was this one of the best, and potentially biggest goals in CCL history? Yes.
Will we remember it as a "what might've been" moment? TBD.