CF Pachuca beats Columbus Crew in CONCACAF Champions Cup final: How it happened

Pachuca are the 2024 CONCACAF Champions Cup winners thanks to a dominant 3-0 win over MLS side Columbus Crew at Estadio Hidalgo on Saturday night. 

Columbus was unable to account for Pachuca’s quality, with the scoreline being a fair reflection of the match’s balance. The Crew had opportunities but failed to make the most of them, instead allowing Pachuca to build off of a first-half goal without really threatening to make it a level contest. Salomón Rondón proved the hero, scoring the match-winner and adding the insurance tally to put the game to bed.

The result means Pachuca have qualified for the 2025 Club World Cup, with the expanded tournament due to be held in venues around the United States. There are now just two remaining teams to be determined of the 32 that will take part in the competition, with a final spot from South America likey to be filled by Boca Juniors and a host confederation qualifier to be determined from North America, Central America or the Caribbean.

For at least one more year, the 2022 Seattle Sounders remain the only MLS team to win the CONCACAF Champions Cup in its modern era.

Here’s how the Crew came unstuck at the Estadio Hidalgo.

Missed opportunities 

Columbus will rue its chances and wonder how different the result might have looked if they had been a bit more ruthless in front of the net.

It started just 15 seconds into the game when Diego Rossi got on the end of a pass just outside the top of the box and forced a diving save from Pachuca goalkeeper Carlos Moreno. Rossi absolutely could have done better and given the Crew an ideal start with an early goal.

Two minutes later, the Crew were again threatening for an early goal. Alexandru Matan got in down the left side on a counterattack, but he couldn’t find the square pass to find his teammate for what should have been an easy finish.

Less than 10 minutes after that counter, Pachuca opened the scoring when Deossa sprung Rondón with a nasty outside-of-the-foot pass and the Venezuelan striker chipped Columbus goalkeeper Patrick Schulte.

Columbus got a boost when Pachuca’s second goal was called back, and they had a chance to tie it when Cucho Hernandez was set up for a right-footed shot from inside the box in the 31st minute, but Cucho narrowly missed outside of the right post and just seconds later Pachuca raced down the field on a counter and Miguel Rodriguez beat Schulte to the near post to double the lead.

Columbus was ruthless during its run to an MLS Cup last year. They had the most goals in MLS last season and scored 8.23 more goals than expected. That deadliness was missing in the first half against Pachuca, and Columbus paid for it. – Paul Tenorio


Watch: Chicho Arango scores from half field

Rondón stars for Pachuca 

When those in MLS circles talk about the great strikers in Liga MX, the conversation always starts with André-Pierre Gignac – but it shouldn’t end there. Just as the Frenchman has been at the heart of Tigres UANL’s success since joining in 2015, Pachuca seems to have found a dependable leading man in Salomón Rondón. Fans of the Premier League will remember the Venezuelan for his oscillating form with West Brom, pre-takeover Newcastle and Everton — at times a force to be reckoned with, at others an easy player for opponents to contain.

This is now the 34-year-old striker’s second season outside of Europe. After scoring 10 goals for River Plate as they won the Argentine league title in 2023, Rondón arrived in Mexico at the start of the year and has swiftly made his presence known. Another 10-pack of goals secured him co-custody of the Liga MX Clausura Golden Boot as he was still adjusting to his new team, while simultaneously entering Saturday’s final with seven goals in six CONCACAF Champions Cup matches.

The fit between striker and club has been a fruitful one, and one that will haunt Columbus defenders for years to come.

Rondón opened the scoring midway through the first half, rewarding an impressive line-breaking pass from midfielder Nelson Deossa with an equally nimble looped dink of a finish over Patrick Schulte. 

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Rondón appeared to play distributor on a potential second goal just two minutes later, before VAR intervened to overturn the tally after Rondón had gone out of his way to shove Rudy Camacho in the back before bolting toward goal.

A grizzled striker will always be in style. Like Gignac has time and again, Rondón’s first half-year in Mexico has already yielded some iconic moments that’ll endear him to Pachuca’s fanbase for years to come. Venezuela fans will hope he can produce moments of magic this summer in the Copa América. – Jeff Rueter

A familiar end for MLS

Columbus was just the eighth team to contest a CONCACAF final since the league’s inception in 1996. Had the club emerged victorious, it would’ve been only the fourth team in league history to taste continental glory. It would also have broken new ground at Pachuca specifically. According to Opta, Pachuca has never lost at home against MLS opposition, outscoring them 26-5 across the eight matches. 

Two of those champions, D.C. United and the LA Galaxy, came in a previous, single-elimination iteration of CONCACAF competition in 1998 and 2000, respectively. In 2022, the Seattle Sounders became the first MLS team to win the tournament in its modern era. It was hailed as a watershed moment in the league’s history, an indicator that MLS was finally leveling the playing field with LigaMX.

It takes more than one result, though, to change a narrative and on Saturday night, the Crew —  the most tactically and stylistically sound team in recent MLS history — added themselves to the laundry list of MLS clubs who came up short in continental competition. 

The club and league’s boosters can offer the same justifications that get rolled out every year — about scheduling, roster construction and the like. None of this, of course, will do a ton to temper anyone’s disappointment and every year that passes, those excuses feel a little more hollow.

Despite all of this, it feels beyond doubt that MLS is on the rise in this competition. Three of the past four finals have included an MLS club and Nancy’s club are arguably the first MLS team in the competition to have arrived there by playing proactive, attacking soccer. The Crew acquitted themselves well throughout the entire competition, including a pair of admirable performances against Liga MX powerhouses CF Monterrey and Tigres.

At the end of the day, though, the club’s supporters — and supporters of MLS at large — have a very familiar taste in their mouths tonight. — Pablo Maurer



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(Photo: Manuel Velasquez/Getty Images)

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