Dom Rep's Moca FC chases history in Champions Cup

By Sports Desk January 24, 2024
Moca FC players celebrate during Caribbean Cup action Moca FC players celebrate during Caribbean Cup action file

Over the course of the last decade, football has grown substantially in the Dominican Republic. The founding of the professional Liga Dominicana de Futbol paved the way for a new era of the sport in the Caribbean country.

At the national team level, the fruits of that labour are apparent, evidenced by their runner-up finish in the 2022 Concacaf Men’s Under-20 Championship, which not only qualified Dominican Republic for a first World Cup in any age group, but also punched their ticket to the 2024 Paris Olympics.

The growth of football in the Dominican Republic is also taking shape in the international arena at the club level. Since 2018, there have been four instances in which a team from the Spanish-speaking Caribbean country have qualified for the Concacaf Champions Cup, the latest being Moca FC, who will participate in this year’s edition.

Moca are set to make their Champions Cup debut next month, when they lock horns with Major League Soccer (MLS) side Nashville SC in Round One. This, as a result of their third-place finish in last year’s Concacaf Caribbean Cup.

The history of Dominican teams in the Champions Cup actually stretches back to 1973 when Universidad Catolica became the first club from the country to compete in the tournament. Then, Universidad Catolica squared off in the First Round of the Caribbean Zone with eventual champions SV Transvaal of Suriname and lost 0-8 and 0-6.

Nearly two decades later in 1992, San Cristobal FC got their first crack at Champions Cup and defeated Unique FC of the US Virgin Islands 5-4 on aggregate in the Preliminary Round of the Caribbean Zone thanks to a 2-1 win and 3-3 stalemate.

San Cristobal FC’s run ended shortly after when they went down 3-4 on aggregate to Guadeloupe’s Solidarite Scolaire, based on a 3-3 stalemate and 1-0 loss.

San Cristobal returned to Champions Cup three years later in 1995, but suffered a 1-2 defeat on aggregate to Haiti’s FICA in the First Round of the Caribbean Zone.

After a lull, Dominican Republic teams returned to the Champions Cup arena, courtesy of Cibao FC, who won the 2017 Concacaf Caribbean Club Championship.

Despite a heavy 0-7 aggregate defeat to eventual champions and Mexican giants Chivas in the Round of 16 of the 2018 Champions Cup, Cibao FC’s qualification showed that Dominican Republic football was on the rise.

A year later, Atletico Pantoja followed suit in the 2019 edition of the Champions Cup and exited at the Round of 16 after a 0-5 aggregate loss to New York Red Bulls. Atletico Pantoja then made their second appearance in the tournament in 2021 and made history against five-time Concacaf champions Monterrey.

Even though they were eliminated 1-6 on aggregate Lisandro Cabrera scored the club’s first Champions Cup goal when he found the back of the net in the second half of the return leg.

Now in 2024, an opportunity exists for debutants Moca FC, to blaze a new trail and rewrite the history books with victory over Nashville SC, which would book them a Round of 16 date with Lionel Messi’s Inter Miami.

 

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