Major League Soccer’s long wait for a Concacaf Champions League title looked like it might come to an end on Tuesday night at Exploria Stadium, but it was another torturous wait for a CCL title that came to an end instead.
Tigres won its first Concacaf Champions League title, shaking off a 1-0 second-half deficit to defeat LAFC, 2-1, in Tuesday’s final.
Andre-Pierre Gignac scored the winning goal in the 84th minute to seal the victory and complete the comeback after LAFC took a second-half lead.
After a goal-less first half, it was LAFC striking first, with Diego Rossi converting a Mark-Anthony Kaye chip pass and giving the MLS side the lead in the 51st minute after some quality combination play between Kaye and Carlos Vela.
LAFC nearly found a second goal in the 65th minute, but Kwadwo Opoku’s perfect set-up pass to a wide-open Carlos Vela in front of goal failed to produce a finish, as Vela’s shot was blocked by Luis Rodriguez, keeping the Mexican side within striking distance.
The Tigres equalizer came in the 71st minute on a corner kick headed home by Hugo Ayala.
The equalizer gave Tigres a big confidence boost while it appeared to deflate an LAFC side that tired late on. The insertion of midfielder Francisco Ginella for Jose Cifuentes was made in order to solidify possession on a night when Cifuentes struggled with turnovers, but Ginella struggled to find the game, and was one of the key culprits on the Tigres winner.
Tigres midfielder Luis Rodriguez dribbled past Ginella, brushing off a weak defensive effort before finding Gignac with an excellent pass, and the French star did the rest, scoring the winner to deliver Tigres its first CCL title, the championship Gignac had stated recently he wanted desperately to win for his club.
LAFC’s loss leaves MLS still searching for its first title in the Concacaf Champions League format (which began in the 2008-2009 season, and first Concacaf club title since the LA Galaxy won the Concacaf Champions Cup in 2000.
LAFC joins a list of MLS teams to fall in the Concacaf Champions League final that includes Toronto FC (2018), the Montreal Impact (2015) and Real Salt Lake (2011).
The victory helped end Tigre’s painful history in CCL finals, having lost in three of the past four finals. Now Tigres will play in the Club World Cup, which is set to be played in February in Qatar.