Unlikely is a word often used to describe Montreal Impact’s run to the final of the CONCACAF Champions League. It was unlikely that the humble Canada-based Major League Soccer outfit would get by Mexican giants Pachuca and Alajuelense of Costa Rica. It was even more unlikely that they would get a result on the road in the first leg of the final against five-time champions Club America at the notorious Estadio Azteca.
But that is just what the Impact did, grabbing a 1-1 draw and a crucial away goal to take back home. FIFA.com looks ahead to the all-important second leg in Montreal on Wednesday night, with a place in the 2015 FIFA Club World Cup in Japan on the line.
Montreal Impact v. Club America
2014/15 CONCACAF Champions League final (second leg)
Wednesday 29 April, Olympic Stadium, Montreal, Canada
Montreal Impact are one game away from making their fairytale come true. A side devoid of big names, they sit bottom of MLS’s Eastern Conference. And they finished dead last in Major League Soccer’s standings last season. But despite failing to win a league game this term, they are on the cusp of making history for Canadian soccer and MLS. Their 1-1 draw in the first leg last week against Club America in Mexico City has left Frank Klopas’ side on the verge of a place in the FIFA Club World Cup. It is no Azteca, but the Big O, as Montreal’s Olympic Stadium is known, is expecting a capacity crowd of 60,000 to help push the Impact toward one more unlikely result. The side will again rely of the sturdiness of Patrice Bernier and Nigel Reo-Coker, the occasional brilliance of Argentine Ignacio Piatti, and the breakaway speed of Dominic Oduro on the counter-attack. All of Canada and MLS are hoping it’s enough to win the day.
Club America, CONCACAF’s most prestigious club, have played three games in the last eight days and will likely be without playmaker Rubens Sambueza, who limped out of Sunday’s Liga MX game against national rivals Chivas Guadalajara. Oribe Peralta, of Mexico national team fame, might well struggle to find the back of the net if Sambueza, America’s creative schemer, is not cleared fit to play on Wednesday. Even so, history is on America’s side. Five-time CONCACAF champions and the most successful team in Mexican history, the Aguilas will not be easily rattled.
Oribe Peralta v. Montreal mystery keeper
El Tri icon Oribe Peralta, 31, is top scorer in the current Champions League. He nodded home a late equaliser in the first leg after coming off the bench. But instead of facing the tried and trusted Evan Bush – who made eight saves for the Impact at the Azteca – Peralta will likely go up against a new face. Kristian Nicht was brought in from NASL side Indy Eleven on Monday in an eleventh-hour deal to cover a dramatic shortage in the No1 position for the Canadian side. With Bush suspended for an accumulation of yellow cards, back-up Eric Kronberg cup-tied, Canadian youth star Maxime Crepeau out injured and on-loan John Smits short of experience, the Impact now turn to 33-year-old Nicht who spent most of his career in the first and second tier of the German professional scene.
Did you know?
In the first leg in Mexico City, Montreal were out-shot by their opponents 28-4 and had only 33 per cent of possession in a game where they conceded 16 corner-kicks.
0 – No team from Major League Soccer has ever reached the FIFA Club World Cup. Mexican teams have represented CONCACAF in nine of the ten installments since the tournament’s inception in 2000.
What they said…
“Getting to this stage has put Montreal on the football map. Fans are excited and there’s worldwide attention on the city now. People here want to be part of this excitement and this moment we’re having. We’re still underdogs, but we have the chance to make history.” Montreal midfielder Nigel Reo-Coker to FIFA.com
“We will be champions if we play the way we played last week. If we play this way again we’re going to reach the goals we’re desperate to reach.” Oribe Peralta believes luck will be with America on Wednesday.