After playing in six Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League editions, Pachuca's Omar Gonzalez (pictured) will compete in the final for the first time later in April. (Photo: Mexsport)
PACHUCA, Mexico – As he walked towards the team bus stationed near the players’ exit at the Estadio Hidalgo on Tuesday night, Omar Gonzalez had a smile a mile wide and extra pep to his step.
There was no secret for either.
After all, the United States international went the entire way as Pachuca defeated visiting FC Dallas, 3-1, in the second leg of the 2016/17 Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League semifinal to capture the series, 4-3 on aggregate.
“This is my first time reaching the final and I couldn’t be happier,” Gonzalez told CONCACAF.com. “I’ve been waiting for this moment for a long time, since my time with the [LA] Galaxy. We weren’t able to reach the final.”
The Tuzos will play fellow Liga MX club Tigres for the title, looking to win a second-ever SCCL crown and first since the 2009/10 season.
“The job’s not done yet,” emphasized Gonzalez, who played in five previous SCCLs with the Galaxy. “I can be happy tonight, but tomorrow we continue preparing for our league game on Sunday (at Santos) and we keep trying to qualify for our league playoff. When the time comes for the final, we have to be ready for that.”
FC Dallas refused to make it easy for Pachuca, winning the first leg 2-1 and then leveling the aggregate score at 3-3 (and away goals at 1-1) thanks to Cristian Colman’s 86th-minute goal. In the second minute of stoppage time, though, Hirving Lozano struck for the decisive goal -- his tournament-best eighth.
“I’m really happy,” Gonzalez remarked. “The whole team played great. FC Dallas was a great team. They came out here to play. They were very competitive. They got a few chances, but we were lucky enough to win this game in the end.
“I feel like we had control over the game. We were keeping possession. Then, from a nothing play, they get a goal. The wind gets taken out of your sails and you feel a bit down, but I looked at the rest of my teammates and they got fired up. They were ready to keep on going and they really didn’t want to go into extra time. That lit a fire under us and we were able to find the winning goal.”
At the end of the day, Gonzalez was pleased for Pachuca to survive and advance.
“[FC Dallas] played a great two-leg series and it could have gone either way,” finished the 28-year-old. “It went in our favor on this one.”