In the 86th minute, an optimistic Cristian Colman header looked to have spoiled Pachuca's party. Just six minutes after Los Tuzos had settled their home crowd's nerves with a second goal, ensuring at the very least that FC Dallas couldn't win through to the 2016-17 CONCACAF Champions League final with one successful strike, the visiting MLS side had got itself back into the game. A 2-1 loss for FCD in Pachuca matched its 2-1 win in Dallas: the semifinal would go to extra time.
GOAL FC Dallas, Cristian COLMAN No. 8 | @Tuzos @FCDallas #SCCL #SoyAficionado pic.twitter.com/b95pK3poFk— CONCACAF (@CONCACAF) April 5, 2017
Except it wouldn't. In the last minute of stoppage time, Hirving "Chucky" Lozano scored his second goal of the night - and eighth of the tournament - to send Los Tuzos to the CCL final with a 4-3 aggregate win over FCD.
GOAL Pachuca, @hirvinglozano70 No. 8 | @Tuzos @FCDallas #SCCL #SoyAficionado pic.twitter.com/kh7yc0PpP2— CONCACAF (@CONCACAF) April 5, 2017
Perhaps it was for the best that the game didn't got to extra time. After scoring, FC Dallas looked spent, struggling to maintain possession and slow to close down opponents. The MLSers had their chances to score much earlier in the game, but didn't take them. Pachuca, meanwhile, kept up steady pressure on the Dallas goal.
Ultimately, FCD 'keeper Chris Seitz was deceived on each of Pachuca's goals by a bouncing ball in his penalty area.
GOAL Pachuca, Franco JARA No. 29 | @Tuzos @FCDallas #SCCL #SoyAficionado pic.twitter.com/ymzXjUg01m— CONCACAF (@CONCACAF) April 5, 2017
GOAL Pachuca, @hirvinglozano70 No. 8 | @Tuzos @FCDallas #SCCL #SoyAficionado pic.twitter.com/CmdN97P58C— CONCACAF (@CONCACAF) April 5, 2017
Lozano scored the last two, both from distance - the second undoubtedly a little fortunate to catch Seitz with his attention on the runner in front of him rather than the ball. But it was fitting that the 21-year-old Pachuca youth team product was the night's hero: it is increasingly likely his days in Liga MX are numbered and his club's fans probably don't have a lot more time to enjoy his work. Chances are that a lot more soccer fans around the world will know Lozano's name after he makes his move to a bigger club, but he will leave some pleasing memories in Pachuca and he still has opportunity to create a few more.
It was also maybe fitting that Pachuca didn't once again get bounced out of CCL by that rarest of regional soccer occurrences: a team from MLS taking the tournament seriously. All MLS teams, of course, say they value CCL, but it is one thing to say that and another to invest time and money into breaking with preseason norms and rewarding advancing in the knockout rounds with increasingly obvious prioritization of the CONCACAF tournament over MLS itself. Montreal Impact did it in the 2014-15 edition and beat Pachuca en route to the final (lost to Club America).
Two years later, Los Tuzos must have been wondering what they did to twice find the needle of a fully CCL-committed MLS team in the haystack of lackluster sides that generally represent the league in the competition. But despite FCD's best efforts, Pachuca won out this time around and will get a shot at the title.
FCD already knows it will be back in CCL next year. The tournament will have a new format for its next edition - one that won't see the likes of Dallas start playing until 2018 (an earlier Phase 1 will be held later this year). Judging by this year's performances, FCD will be ready. If the other MLS teams have been paying attention to what Dallas has been doing to make itself competitive in CCL, maybe they will be too.