For me soccer provides so many emotions, a different feeling every day. I've had the good fortune to take part in major competitions like the Olympics, and winning the World Cup was also unforgettable. We lost in the Olympics and won in the World Cup, and I'll never forget either feeling. - Ronaldinho
4-2 was the final score, 5-3 on aggregate, against the best club in North America. Their opposition; l'Impact de Montréal - a team from French Canada, that had overcome racism, discrimination and the combined power of the New York Red Bulls, C.D. FAS, C.D. Pachuca and L.D. Alajuelense to arrive at the doorstep of the richest club outside of Europe. Luck, grit and sheer bravado would catapult the Impact to a 1-1 draw at Stadio Azteca, the Mecca of soccer, stunning the local crowd. It was enough to propel the Impact into a 61,000 strong crowd in Stade Olympique.
That was the atmosphere in which the two teams faced off for the title of best club in CONCACAF, and from the beginning, it was a fools dream. The salary for Club America is rumoured to be as high as 60 million dollars, compared to the Impact's 3.1 million. Club America relies on talent that has proven itself in the World Cup, while the Impact's three strikers combined have never even been on the radar for their national teams. Vegas and London bookies bet against the Impact, and the closet anti-French racists across North America waited with baited breath to spout their ignorance. Club America goalkeeper Moisés Muñoz, whose salary is almost as much as the entire Impact team's salary combined, told media 'they don't deserve to be Champions', as if he would know anything about the definition.
The Montréal response was typical of our 400 year history. As Frontenac once said as the British looked to seize Québec "Je vous répondrai par la bouche de mes canons". They would fight, and god willing, give Montréal the best show they had seen in decades.
The Impact did fight, and Montréal should never look back. This is the best run an MLS team has ever had in the Champions League. Real Salt Lake tied 2-2 in Monterrey, and lost 1-0 on their home turf. We tied 1-1 in Azteca and lost 4-2 at home. Our crowd was bigger, the entire MLS, and media from France, England, Japan, Brazil and the United States were with us. Ours was a cinderella run. Ours was the story of the perpetual underdog. If this was a Hollywood sports movie, we were the scrappy outsiders who deserved to win, but wouldn't because we had yet to learn a lesson. We are still learning, still making history, and we still have a lot of titles left to win.
The slogan for this Champions League campaign was Marquons l'histoire (Let's make history). It was accomplished by eliminating Pachuca. The ghosts of Santos Laguna were finally vanquished, 2009 had been laid to rest, and we advanced into the semi-finals. We became the first Canadian team to make the Champions League finals, and we now hold the best record in the MLS in the Champions League. There is no shame in bowing out to a superior foe - as long as you give as good as you got - and Montréal fought like champions.
But let's look back to our first years as a club, when we were paying people in gas cards and pizza coupons in 1993. In the 90's Club America were a powerhouse, and they still are. They had money, and still do. We didn't, and barely do now. We have come so far, won more titles in the USL and NASL in 20 years than most clubs will in a century, and have only been a top flight club for less than 4 seasons. Never forget how far we have come, and that we can still go further. This was only a taste of the future.
This loss is not the closing of a chapter, but the dawning of a new era. Not even 3 months ago Joey Saputo was wondering if Montréal was even a soccer market. Now he knows. We are a soccer city. An international city. A metropolis of la Francophonie, and home of one of the best clubs in North American soccer.
So be proud of your club, Montréal. Take this defeat not as a sign of weakness, but as a resolve to do better next time; and there is always a next time in the Champions League. The Impact have done more than the other 4 Canadian clubs combined, and if given the chance will do so again.
How fitting that our next match is against rivals Toronto FC in a battle for the Amway Canadian Championship, and the right to qualify for the Champions League once again.
The fans are back. The buzz is back. The city has found another championship team that has inspired a generation of soccer fans to sing the words 'allez Montréal' once more. That is something that win or lose, we will always have.
Tous pour gagner. Today, we showed the world exactly what that means.