Before Toronto FC and Tigres UANL reunite to scrap over the inaugural Campeones Cup on Wednesday night (8:15 pm ET | ESPN2, Univision in US; TSN, TVAS in Canada), we felt like taking a stroll down memory lane to revisit the most thrilling episodes involving MLS and Liga MX adversaries.
Those two clubs met earlier in the year, and that duel made the list. In fact, both clubs make multiple appearances in our top diez.
No. 10: MLS All-Stars top Chivas (2003)
Naturally, preference on this list was given to matches carrying the weight of competitive meaning, but we had to include one exhibition highlight. It was 15 years ago that the first ever All-Star Game to pit the league against a foreign opponent took place at the brand-spanking-new StubHub Center (then known as the Home Depot Center), and it's the only time to date that foe came from south of the border.
With esteemed guests Chivas de Guadalajara dominating the first half, LA Galaxy goalkeeper Kevin Hartman made some big saves to keep the game scoreless until Chicago Fire man Ante Razov could break the ice near the hour mark. The lead was short-lived due to Jair Garcia's 66th-minute jailbreak strike, but Galaxy striker Carlos Ruiz bagged the winner two minutes later and DaMarcus Beasley added a late insurance tally.
No. 9: TFC tame Tigres (2018)
It didn't play out that way in the end, but most observers considered this Concacaf Champions League elite eight matchup to be worthy of the final. The kings of MLS against their Liga MX counterparts, each entering the fray at the height of their reigns.
Major League Soccer's treble winners took advantage of hosting the tie opener, overturning a second-half deficit to win thanks to Jonathan Osorio's cheeky last-minute backheel winner.
In the away leg, the Reds traded second-half goals with Tigres before Sebastian Giovinco applied the dagger with 17 minutes to play. The Atomic Ant stuffed a pinpoint free kick into the top corner for what would prove to be the deciding away goal, rendering a late Andre-Pierre Gignac double as mere consolation.
No. 8: Galaxy drop SuperLiga final on PKs (2007)
After having to win a 6-5 road thriller against FC Dallas just to escape the group phase of the inaugural SuperLiga, the Galaxy eased through D.C. United to face Liga MX champs Pachuca in a title match at home. David Beckham led LA's early charge in the final, but would depart with an injury late in the first half.
He was around just long enough to see a Peter Vagenas own goal put Pachuca in the lead. When all hope looked lost, Chris Klein bagged a stoppage-time bicycle kick to knot things up. The teams remained tied through extra time, taking the silver scrap to penalties.
Vagenas' night got even rougher when his shootout-opening try was saved, but two Joe Cannon stops later and Landon Donovan stepped up intending to win it. His attempt was also smothered, and Los Tuzos celebrated victory when Abel Xavier missed the target in the next round.
No. 7: Seattle's CCL quarterfinal rally (2013)
Through the first four iterations of the CCL era, no MLS team had been able to knock out a Liga MX competitor. That all changed in 2013, when the Seattle Sounders fought back from two goals down on aggregate to bounce mighty quarterfinal foes Tigres at CenturyLink Field.
An easy Elias Hernandez finish doubled the visitors' first-leg advantage midway through the opening frame, but Sounders hopes of a rally were boosted when Manuel Viniegra drew his second yellow card in eight minutes just before the break.
DeAndre Yedlin sliced into the lead with a slightly-deflected 30-yard net-seeker in the 53rd minute, which was followed on the hour by a stunning Djimi Traore cracker from long range. That bomb put Seattle ahead on away goals before Eddie Johnson sealed the deal late.
No. 6: RSL's home final heartbreaker
In the 2011 Champions League, Real Salt Lake cruised past Columbus and held off semifinal foes Saprissa to reach the championship round, where they faced a loaded Monterrey side. Thanks to some big Nick Rimando saves and Javier Morales' 89th-minute equalizer, the MLS challengers rallied from behind twice for a hard-fought 2-2 share in Mexico.
In the deciding game at Rio Tinto Stadium, Fabian Espindola narrowly missed on a couple of chances to give RSL their first lead of the final. That wastefulness was punished when Humberto Suazo tucked one inside the post from close range on the edge of intermission.
The home side came close on several second-half occasions to leveling the aggregate with a potentially decisive away goal, but could not find a way past Rayados 'keeper Jonathan Orozco.
No. 5: FC Dallas' wild CCL semifinal (2017)
FC Dallas traveled south of the border for their Champions League semifinal decider away to local boy made good Omar Gonzalez and Pachuca, having rallied from an early deficit to take the first leg 2-1 on Kellyn Acosta's free-kick gem.
As he had done in the opener, Franco Jara started the second leg scoring in the first half, putting Pachuca ahead on away goals in the process. It appeared to be all she wrote when Lozano rolled one in short side to pad the lead with 10 minutes left, but unlikely source Cristian Colman squared the tie with a terrific header in the waning moments of regulation.
It went for naught, however, as a chipped Chucky Lozano cross somehow found an untouched way into the net in stoppage time, sending Pachuca on to win the crown.
No. 4: Houston's CCC classic at Pachuca (2007)
Before there was CCL heartbreak for MLS, the league’s entrants also experienced woes in its predecessor, Concacaf Champions Cup. The Houston Dynamo came in to this CCC semifinal capper at Estadio Hidalgo riding high after second-half goals from Brian Ching and Chris Wondolowski earned the defending MLS champs a 2-0 home leg win. However, the reigning Liga MX kings had the aggregate level within the first 15 minutes of the return.
Instead of folding out of shock, Houston gathered themselves to eventually reclaim the tie lead through a well-worked Brian Mullan counter strike early in the second half. Only five minutes later, though, a second spot kick from Christian Gimenez evened things for a second time.
Unbowed, Ching responded with a 79th-minute restart tally to give the visitors another aggregate edge. Four minutes from defeat, Gabriel Caballero nodded Pachuca level for the third time, setting the stage for Gimenez to win the tie in extra time with an audacious long-distance blast.
No. 3: TFC lose 2018 CCL final on PKs
Having disposed of Tigres and Club America, Toronto looked poised to make it an unprecedented quadruple heading into this year’s Champions League final. After artfully creating the lion's share of the chances, the Reds were surprised to be down 2-1 after the BMO Field leg.
Their title outlook grew dimmer when Orbelin Pineda doubled Tigres' aggregate lead 19 minutes into the decisive return, but the MLS champs weren't done yet. Mere moments later, Jozy Altidore pulled the visitors back to within one from the doorstep to re-ignite the final. Just before the interval, Giovinco slotted one low to the short side from the left channel to even the tie.
Despite losing Altidore to an injury, TFC created the best regulation chance to win it all, only to have Marky Delgado fire high from 16 yards in added time. The title bout went to spot kicks, with Chivas converting all four of their tries. However, Osorio hit the bar in round two and Michael Bradley skied over the fourth kick to set off home-side celebrations.
No. 2: Porter's last-gasp quarterfinal flipper (2015)
Oftentimes, the most memorable episodes in soccer come down to a game phase or a full sequence of events. And sometimes, those intense dramatics can be crystallized into a single moment. Such is the case with the strike from Montreal Impact substitute forward Cameron Porter that turned a CCL battle on its head.
There were plenty of exciting incidents during Montreal's run to the final (which they'd lose due to a late home collapse against Club America), but most of them would have never happened if weren't for a 21-year-old with nine minutes of first team experience when Pachuca arrived for the quarterfinal's second leg.
The teams began that Montreal showdown with two goals apiece and the Impact up on what would prove to be killer away goals. The clubs traded chances until Laurent Ciman committed an 80th-minute area foul and German Cano bashed home the resulting penalty to give the Mexican giants their first lead of the tie.
Less than two months into his pro career, Porter entered with five minutes left to provide a moment Impact fans will never forget. Three minutes into stoppage time, the kid used the touch an of angel to chest a Calum Mallace long boot past his defender and poke home past the onrushing netminder. He snatched advancement from the jaws of defeat in a flash, sending Stade Saputo into hysterics.
No. 1: D.C. United make border-wars history (1998)
Thus far, only two Major League Soccer teams have managed to win Concacaf's biggest club tournament, and only one of those bested a Liga MX side in the final to do it. In just the second year of MLS involvement, D.C. United took the Champions Cup home, shoving two Mexican clubs aside in the process.
After blanking Leon behind Roy Lassiter's brace in the semis, the Black-and-Red hosted a one-off championship final against a Toluca outfit in the midst of arguably the best multi-season run in club history.
After John Harkes had rattled the bar, the opportunistic Eddie Pope scored the only goal of the final when Toluca goalkeeper Mario Albarran spilled a 41st-minute restart save. The D.C. defender was in the right place at the right time to clean up the mess, and they held on the rest of the way to become the first MLS club to claim a major international prize.