On February 10th, the Columbus crew will find out his opponent for his first CONCACAF Champions League Game in a decade. The Black & Gold made its third appearance in the competition after beating that Seattle Sounders 3-0 last December to win the 2020 MLS Cup. The round of 16 of this year’s Champions League begins on April 6th.
Before we find out which team Columbus will play with to start the 2021 run in CONCACAF’s largest international club competition, let’s take a trip back in time and look back at the other two cases in which the crew played in the Champions League Has. These came in the 2009-10 edition and its last appearance was in 2010-11.
2009-10 CONCACAF Champions League
In the second year of the newly renamed CONCACAF Champions League, the crew was one of four American MLS teams in the competition. Columbus first qualified for the tournament after winning the MLS Supporters’ Shield in 2008. At this point, taking the MLS Cup home with you was just an added bonus.
With the crew winning both of the most coveted MLS trophies in 2008, the Supporters’ Shield came second, the Houston Dynamoand MLS Cup runners-up, the New York Red Bulls, also qualified. DC United was the last American team to be inducted as of 2008 US Open Cup winners. Back then, there was more of a group stage in the Champions League than today’s knockout bracket format.
The Black & Gold were accepted into Group C alongside the Mexican team Cruz Azul, the Costa Rican powerhouse Saprissa and the islanders of Puerto Rico. The club’s first game in the CONCACAF Champions League was a 2-0 win in Columbus against the Islanders with goals from Steven Lenhart and Robbie Rogers. The game that followed was a major turning point when the crew lost 5-0 to Cruz Azul in Mexico City.
The third game was another Crew win with a fifth-minute goal from Eddie Gaven who scored three points at Saprissa. After a 2-0 home loss to Cruz Azul in late September, Columbus drew two 1-1 draws in a row to secure second place in Group C and advance to the quarter-finals. The Black & Gold met another Mexican team in the knockout rounds with two games against Toluca.
In the first leg in Columbus, the crew managed a 2-2 draw. Steven Lenhart scored two unanswered goals, including equalizing in the 83rd minute. In March 2010 the Black & Gold played in Mexico against Toluca, fell 3-2 and were eliminated 5-4. The 2008 MLS MVP, Guillermo Barros Schelotto, posted two losses. The Mexican powerhouse Pachuca defeated Cruz Azul in the final and took his fourth CONCACAF Champions Cup / League title.
2010-11 CONCACAF Champions League
After winning a second Supporters’ Shield in a row in 2009, Columbus qualified again for the Champions League. The American teams they joined were the 2009 MLS Cup champions Real salt lakeSecond the LA Galaxy and US Open Cup champions, the Seattle Sounders, the youngest MLS expansion team.
The crew joined the Mexican Santos Laguna, Guatemalas Municipal and Joe Public from Trinidad & Tobago in Group B for the 2010/11 competition. The Black & Gold started this year’s tournament with a 1-0 home win against Municipal in August 2010. Emmanuel Ekpo scored the only goal.
After a last-minute loss to Santos Laguna in Mexico, the crew scored two home wins in a row, defeating Joe Public 3-0 and taking revenge on Santos Laguna with a 1-0 win. The 87th-minute winner from Andres Mendoza earned Columbus his first win against a Mexican team in the competition. Despite losing 2-1 to Municipal in Guatemala City, the crew finished second in the group with a 4-1 win over Joe Public in Tunapuna.
The crew played against an MLS rival in the quarterfinals and faced Real Salt Lake for a semifinal spot. The last two American teams in the competition drew a goalless draw at Columbus Crew Stadium in February 2011. At Rio Tinto in Salt Lake City, RSL prevailed with a 4-1 win over Black & Gold and beat the crew out again in the quarterfinals.
This year’s CONCACAF Champions League draw begins February 10 at 7 p.m. ET. Columbus is in Pot 1 and meets Club Leon (MEX), Saprissa (CRC), Marathon (HON), Alajuelense (CRC), CD Olimpia (HON) and Atletico Pantoja (DOM)), Real Esteli (NCA) or Arcahaie ( HAI).