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Olimpia - Old-hands At The Continental Game

2020 is Honduran’s 35th Champions Cup/League campaign...

MLS: Champions League Quarterfinal-CD Olimpia at Montreal Impact
CD Olimpia team-group at Stade Olympqiue prior to the Montreal leg in March.
Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

Montreal Impact’s opponents tomorrow evening, CD Olimpia, are nothing if not experienced when it comes to continental competition.

When they met with Seattle Sounders back in February this year they were embarking on their 35th CONCACAF Champions Cup/League campaign. Montreal Impact by contrast is currently on its fourth.

Just when we needed him most.... he’s injured! Guess which Montreal Impact player has got form against Olimpia in Champions League play? Yip! Maxi Urruti, who recorded a brace in a 4-2 win for Portland Timbers in 2014. Romell Quioto scored in the same game for Olimpia.

But apart from a few, brief, golden periods, most of Olimpia’s campaigns have yielded only moderate success, and certainly in the Champions League era (from 2009), they’ve struggled to make waves.... until now!

Their golden period was clearly the late eighties, when they were champions (1988), runners-up and beaten semi-finalists twice, all between 1985 and 1990.

Before that they were Champions in 1972. Details are inconsistent for the early years of the Champions Cup competition, but it’s believed around 8 teams entered that year, including Club America and Toluca from Mexico.

Olimpia had the benefit of playing both legs of the semi-final against Toluca at home, and won 2-1 on aggregate. In the final they met Robin Hood of Surinam and triumphed by the only goal scored over the two legs. Again each leg of the final was played in Honduras, although the first was in San Pedro Sula, not Tegucigalpa, Olimpia’s home city.

In the 1988 final they defeated Defence Force from Trinidad & Tobago. This time both legs were played in Olimpia’s home city, with the Lions winning each match, 2-0.

Again there was Mexican representation in the competition, Olimpia achieving it’s best result in defeating Cruz Azul 2-1 on aggregate in the regional 4th round, and Morelia who refused to play out the series subsequently suffered the ignominy of disqualification.

In two earlier group stages all the games were played in tournament-form in Tegucigalpa, effectively six games in front of home crowds for Olimpia.

In the late nineties/early 2000’s, Olimpia flirted with quarter-final participation on four occasions and reached the final, their last to date, in 2000, when they lost 2-3 to LA Galaxy at the LA Coliseum, St-Vincentian Ezra Hendrickson ultimately doing the damage with 12 mins of regulation time left.

Reaching the final secured Olimpia a place in the 2001 FIFA World Club Championship scheduled for the following August in Spain. The Hondurans were drawn in Group B to play Palmeiras (Brazil) and Galatasary (Turkey) at Atletico Madrid’s Vicente Calderon stadium, and Saudi’s, Al Hilal at the Bernabeu, however the tournament was cancelled owing to a combination of factors, not least the collapse of FIFA’s marketing partners at the time, ISL.
LA Galaxy would have played against Real Madrid in Group C.

That was the last real splash made by Olimpia in the CONCACAF competition. Since it became the Champions League in 2009 success has been elusive, despite qualifying for 11 of the 12 editions played to date.

They did emerge from the group stage in 2011 in the process eliminating Mexico’s Toluca, but lost both legs of their quarter-final to Deportivo Saprissa (agg; 1-3).

Another Champions League quarter-final arrived in 2015, when they eliminated Portland Timbers at the group stage on away goals in the head-to-head, after being level on points with the men from Oregon.

Their quarter-final fate was sealed on this occasion by Costa Rica’s Herediano, who won 2-0 at home after drawing 1-1 in Honduras.

Olimpia’s results in the Champions League era against MLS clubs have been decent at home, wining 3 and drawing 2 of their last 5. Of the two defeats that preceded that run, one was by Montreal Impact, in 2009, while still a USL club. Away from home Olimpia has not been quite so proficient. Their victory in Montreal in March is the only time they’ve won on North American (including Mexican) soil, in 13 attempts.

CD Olimpia v Houston Dynamo
Olimpia was in the same group as Houston Dynamo in 2012 when the clubs played out two 1-1 stalemates. Her Olimpia’s Douglas Caetano bursts through the challenges of Clark (#7) and Hinault (31) of the Dynamo.
Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

A repeat of that 2-1 Montreal victory in Tegucigalpa in 2009 will do for the Impact tomorrow evening, at least to force extra-time.

With so much chaos and inconsistency in the football world right now and the game effectively taking place at a neutral venue behind closed doors, tomorrow evening’s outcome is really anyone’s guess.

Should Montreal not be able to score at least twice in normal time and keep the margin to one, then Olimpia’s preparations for a seventh continental champions semi-final will get underway.