Marquons l'histoire - Let's Make History!
That was the Montreal Impact's message to fans!
After a disappointing loss on the road to FC Edmonton back on May 7th, 2014 to start their quest for Champions league glory, along with a brutal MLS season in 2014 few could have predicted what was to come for the Montreal Impact.
On January 19th 2015, the Montreal Impact launched a micro website to help promote the start of their Champions League journey marquonslhistoire.com. At the time, the hope for the club was to make history by advancing to the CONCACAF Champions League semi-finals and erasing the painful memories of the club's heart breaking 5-4 loss to Mexican side Santos Laguna back in the 2009 CCL quarter-finals.
It is safe to say the club has succeeded in those exorcising those demons. With the season that the Impact had last year, and the early season struggles that have continued in MLS play it is hard to imagine that they are now a couple of positive results away from winning the ultimate prize, the CONCACAF Champions League title and a spot amongst the cream of the crop at the next FIFA Club World Cup.
So who exactly is Club America?
Established in 1916, They are 5 time winners of the CONCACAF Champions Cup/Champions League tournaments, most recently winning in 2006, when they beat fellow Mexican side Toluca in the final. They are also 12 time Liga MX winners (8 times runner up). They are currently sitting in 6th place in the Liga MX standings after 14 games (3 pts out behind leaders Chivas de Guadalajara).
Their home, the mighty Azteca stadium that can hold roughly 104,000 fans. C.A. officials have announced that the stadium is sold out meaning 105,000 screaming fans will be on hand to make life difficult for the Impact. Montreal can expect the same treatment (if not worse) as they got last round versus Alajuelense. It will be an experience of a lifetime for the club. Excuses were made when Montreal defeated Pachuca, and Alajuelense, haters felt that the Impact were getting weakened opponents. The same cannot be said with Club America. To get to the final they turned a 2-0 deficit into 6-2 aggregate win over Costa Rican side Herediano, thanks to a 6-0 2nd leg home victory. Fans in attendance that night at Azteca which saw the home side pound 5 first half goals in the the back of Herediano's net. Montreal will have to be very sound defensively and withstand the urge to sit back and defend!
This club is one of the best, like Barcelona, Madrid, or Manchester United. Club America have a rich history of success in Liga MX and on the international stage! By the time the Montreal Impact were established in 1993, Club America already had 8 Liga MX titles in their trophy case! They say...To be the best you have to beat the best, well the Impact will have a chance to do just that.
Good News For Montreal?
While every bit of this match up screams a David versus Goliath scenario, I feel the Montreal Impact have the potential to pull of what would be one of the biggest upsets in history. Yes, the Impact will have to contend with adversity from the crowd, an experience that will be like none other the team has ever faced, but they got a taste of it in the last round versus Alajuelense.
The altitude will probably factor in once again as well but thanks to cooperation from MLS, they were able to leave for Mexico a lot earlier to help readjust to the climate, and extra time to rest and prepare while their opponents had to play on the weekend. Also, having already played in adverse conditions they will know what to expect. It is hard to predict what line-up Club America will throw at Montreal, having been embarrassed at home this past weekend thanks to Ronaldinho and Querétaro 4-0, they could face pressure from the fans the longer the Impact hang around.
In the loss to Querétaro, America fielded 9 of the 11 starters that provided the club with that come from behind win against Herediano, in the 2nd leg of their semi-final round. While the Impact are dealing with their own injury troubles having not had to play since their loss to Houston on the 11th it should mean that players are well rested for the grueling task ahead. MLS teams have rarely fared well in CCL play and this can be something that Montreal may be able to use to their advantage.
As much as I would love to see the club get the victory, I feel that they should approach the game with the focus of being tidy at the back and try to catch them on the counter. As in most road games the importance of absorbing the pressure in the opening 15-20 minutes will be huge. The holding midfielders and defenders will have to do a much better job of limiting time and space when America has possession in the defensive third of the field.
If striker Oribe Peralta is fit to play, Laurent Ciman and Bakary Soumare will have to be sure of where he is at all times as well as keeping close tabs on Dario Benedetto and Pablo Aguilar. Montreal needs to be disciplined, but physical, they can't afford to give away silly fouls in dangerous areas, and risk being booked or sent off. Emotions will be running high and they have to find a way to keep them in check.
When on the attack the Impact should use their speed on the wings through Dominic Oduro, Andres Romero and Ignacio Piatti as much as possible. We saw how Oduro's pace kept Pachuca's defense second guessing a lot, so if he can provide the same intensity it will be great for the team. It remains to be seen how Montreal will line up but now with the recent addition of Kenny Cooper, the team will have different options to throw at America.
I want to see what kind of leadership and example Piatti will present, as he has been here before, and knows what it will take to win it all. The stakes are higher than they have ever been before for Montreal, I look to him to lead the way.
The Impact have been very successful at home during their run, and with home field advantage in this Champion's League final, if the club can get a positive result in this opening leg there might just be enough magic left in the tank to have a storybook ending. We have already seen how important road goals have been to Montreal, if they can steal a goal or 2 on the road, it might just be the difference between glory and or defeat.
Biggest Game in Club's History
It seems as though we have been hearing this phrase a lot during this Champion's League run, but it is true the opening leg of this final will be without a doubt the BIGGEST GAME in club history! Make no mistake about it, the Montreal Impact deserve to be in the final! A sold out crowd of over 58,000 fans is waiting to cheer on the Impact in the second leg of this final. The city is ready to celebrate!