On Feb. 10, the Columbus Crew will find out its opponent for its first CONCACAF Champions League match in a decade. The Black & Gold earned its third appearance in the competition after defeating the Seattle Sounders 3-0 last December to win the 2020 MLS Cup. The Round of 16 for this year’s Champions League will begin on April 6.
Before we find out which team Columbus will matchup with to start the 2021 run in CONCACAF’s biggest international club competition, we take a trip down memory lane and look back on the two other instances the Crew played in the Champions League, these came in the 2009-10 edition and its last appearance was in 2010-11.
2009-10 CONCACAF Champions League
The second year of the newly rebranded CONCACAF Champions League featured the Crew, as one of four American MLS teams in the competition. Columbus qualified for the tournament for the first time ever after winning the 2008 MLS Supporters’ Shield. Taking home MLS Cup was just an added bonus at that point.
Because the Crew won both of MLS’s most coveted trophies in 2008, Supporters’ Shield runners-up, the Houston Dynamo, and MLS Cup runners-up, the New York Red Bulls, both qualified as well. D.C. United was the last American team included as the 2008 U.S. Open Cup winners. Back then, the Champions League featured a group stage rather than the immediate knockout bracket format we currently have today.
The Black & Gold were drawn into Group C alongside Mexican side Cruz Azul, Costa Rican powerhouse Saprissa and the Puerto Rico Islanders. The club’s first ever match in the CONCACAF Champions League was a 2-0 victory in Columbus against the Islanders with goals from Steven Lenhart and Robbie Rogers. The following match was a huge turnaround of fortunes as the Crew lost 5-0 to Cruz Azul in Mexico City.
The third game was another Crew victory with a fifth minute goal by Eddie Gaven earning three points at Saprissa. After a 2-0 home loss to Cruz Azul in late September, Columbus got two consecutive 1-1 draws to secure second place in Group C and advance to the quarterfinals. The Black & Gold faced another Mexican side in the knockout rounds with two games against Toluca.
In the first leg in Columbus, the Crew managed a 2-2 draw with Steven Lenhart scoring two unanswered goals, including the 83rd-minute equalizer. In March of 2010, the Black & Gold played Toluca in Mexico and fell 3-2 and was eliminated 5-4 aggregate goal. The 2008 MLS MVP, Guillermo Barros Schelotto, scored twice in the loss. Mexican powerhouse Pachuca defeated Cruz Azul in the final to claim its fourth CONCACAF Champions Cup/League title.
2010-11 CONCACAF Champions League
After winning a second consecutive Supporters’ Shield in 2009, Columbus again qualified for the Champions League. The American sides them joined them were the 2009 MLS Cup champions Real Salt Lake, runners-up the LA Galaxy and U.S. Open Cup champion, the Seattle Sounders, the most recent MLS expansion team.
The Crew joined Mexico’s Santos Laguna, Guatemala’s Municipal and Joe Public of Trinidad & Tobago in Group B for the 2010-11 competition. The Black & Gold kicked off that year’s tournament with a 1-0 win at home against Municipal in August of 2010. Emmanuel Ekpo scored the lone goal.
Following a last-minute loss to Santos Laguna in Mexico, the Crew got two straight home victories, defeating Joe Public 3-0 and getting revenge on Santos Laguna with a 1-0 win. The 87th minute winner from Andres Mendoza earned Columbus its first win against a Mexican team in the competition. Despite losing to Municipal 2-1 in Guatemala City, the Crew clinched second place in the group with an emphatic 4-1 win in Tunapuna against Joe Public.
The Crew played an MLS rival in the quarterfinals, meeting Real Salt Lake for a semifinal spot. The last two American teams in the competition played to a scoreless draw at Columbus Crew Stadium in February of 2011. At Rio Tinto in Salt Lake City, RSL made quick work of the Black & Gold with a 4-1 win to knock the Crew out at the quarterfinal stage again.
This year’s CONCACAF Champions League draw begins at 7 p.m. ET on Feb 10. Columbus is in Pot 1 and will face one of Club Leon (MEX), Saprissa (CRC), Marathon (HON), Alajuelense (CRC), CD Olimpia (HON), Atletico Pantoja (DOM), Real Esteli (NCA) or Arcahaie (HAI).