In the opening leg of the CONCACAF Champion's League match against C.D. Pachuca, something amazing happened. Dilly Duka netted himself a brace. While this eventually led to a draw, and a nice Twitter photo by Impact Media, showing Duka 'declaring' two away goals in Mexico to Canadian customs, I couldn't help but think of another moment in our shared soccer history...
You see, Montréal has a soccer history going back to the beginning of the century, when Irish migrant workers and new arrivals from Italy, Portugal and Greece brought their game of soccer to rugged French-Canadian mining and logging settlements near Ottawa, Montréal and Québec.
This game is older than we think. It's been played at the pro level in Montréal since the 80's, at least. Montréal used to be an unstoppable machine in those days. The Impact, and before that the Manic, won championship after championship. They even set a CONCACAF record in Canada, being the first Canadian side to reach the quarter finals, after eliminating Toronto FC. They did this while still a 2nd division club. That team was made of winners, but none stood out more than Eduardo Sebrango and Leonardo Di Lorenzo.
Sebrango came to Canada and settled in Vancouver, earning himself a spot with their A-League side in 1998. By 2006 he had bounced around clubs, including the Whitecaps, the pre-cursor to our Canadian MLS rivals, before being traded to l'Impact de Montréal. Like Duka, he's a dual-national, both Cuban and Canadian. Duka, while Albanian-American embodies Sebrango in more than just number of passports; he plays with conviction and always finishes with a smile. They always gave excellent interviews, and respected both their team, their city and their fans.
They were both willing to put in the time, the effort and the dedication to earn their spot on the team. Sebrango, like Duka, never took his position for granted - and the 2009 Impact were a lot deeper than ours today. But in one movement, Duka showed himself to be our new Eduardo. He netted a brace against a superior opponent. 2 goals, in the first half, both on the counter attack. Eduardo Sebrango did the same thing in 2009, where we eventually went on to defeat Santos Laguna 2-0 in Stade Olympique in front of 55,000 fans. It was, until March 3rd 2015, the biggest moment in our clubs history.
If Eduardo Sebrango was calm under fire, Leonardo Di Lorenzo was a tidal wave. The Argentine midfielder was everything to the Impact of old what Piatti is today. Lightning fast, with incredible pace and an impeccable ability to always find the back of the net, Di Lorenzo was the reason the Impact qualified for the Champion's League in 2009 in the first place. It was on his goals, and myriad of assists that the Impact took out Toronto F.C. and the Vancouver Whitecaps to secure the Nutrilife Canada Cup (as I recall it once being known).
Seeing Piatti against the Red Bulls last year, in our third Champion's League match, I couldn't help but remember Di Lorenzo. The Italian-Argentine midfielder controlled possession, passed articuately, immolated the defence and overwhelmed the challenges of central midfielders. Both possessed the grace and natural talent to lead a team to victory, and both did.
While we would go on to lose the series eventually, we set a record as the first Canadian side to reach the quarter finals and the first second division side to clear the group stage - a record that still stands (although, quite a few of our 2009 squad play for the Ottawa Fury, including Donatelli and coach Marc Dos Santos - maybe we should watch out). Those two players added flare and a level of intensity that I haven't seen in this squad until Duka and Piatti.
So tonight when you're watching the Impact dazzle in the midfield with Dilly Duka and Ignacio 'Nacho' Piatti, remember that we've done this before, and that hopefully, another victory will be in store for this historic occasion.
Allez Montréal, allez.