Like many expected, Montreal could not find enough in its decimated 2020 panel to overcome the first leg deficit from 268 days ago.
That opening sentence in itself tells the tale of an inordinate season, when it takes so long to complete a two-legged tie and where you lose one leg with your best team and win the other when heavily depleted.
On the evidence presented last evening, Montreal Impact has missed a huge opportunity in 2020 to reach its second-ever CONCACAF Champions League semi-final. Instead Olimpia now prepares for their first. In fact it’s the seventh time they’ve made it to the last four in the Confederation’s premier club competition, previously the Champions’ Cup.
Although just like the first half way back in March at Stade Olympique, the Hondurans looked the better side up until the break, and really should have scored when Jerry Bengtson missed a real sitter in the 14th minute. But then so too should Mason Toye seven minutes earlier, when a deft pick-out by Sejdic, Montreal’s best player, sent him in, one-on-one, with Menjivar.
Toye’s run had been an intelligent one, but his dexterity was found wanting, opting to place a weak header, when the opportunity called for chest and placement.
The New Jersey youngster continues to struggle in Montreal. There’s still time for him to come good, but early signs are not encouraging.
The sides again exchanged opportunities in the 32nd and 44th mins, when Binks saw his header cleared off the line by Rodriguez and Arbeloda was unable to direct Bengtson’s miscued volley on the frame from close in.
And again, the second-half resembled the Montreal meeting of the sides, where the team chasing the game dominated proceedings. The Impact received their just reward through Sejdic on 57 mins. The American met a weak clearance by Pineda and using the exposed Leveron as his guide, bent the ball around the defender and into the net from 20 yards.
But despite enjoying much possession over the remaining 30 minutes and providing Olimpia with plenty to think about, the Impact was unable to carve out another real chance of quality.
They’d had the likes of Taider, Bojan and Lappalainen available in the first leg, but one of those has left the club, another looks like he’s about to, and the third is recovering from shoulder injury. Had all three been available last evening it might well have made the difference.
Given the circumstances, last night’s victory was commendable by the Montreal side, but they simply must regret not doing a better job at home. It was the Impact’s first appearance in the continent’s premier soccer competition for five long years, and despite the team leaving everything out on the pitch last night, they fell short against a team, which over the two legs, they must feel they should have beaten.
It may also be their last game under the Montreal Impact name, but that’s another story.
Said coach Henry: “We beat a team that didn’t lose in a very long time, but we didn’t score the second goal. I’m proud of my team. We didn’t train for two weeks, guys were missing, and we performed.”
Montreal understandably looked rusty in the first 45, and some players; Toye, Quioto, Wanyama and Binks never found their best form on the night, although the young Englishman was much more like himself after the interval.
In contrast, Amar Sejdic, entrusted with the role of play-maker, seemed to revel and grow with the additional responsibility and there was another sound performance at the back from Rudi Camacho, much-maligned through these pages earlier in the season.
Sejdic commented post-match: “At the end of the day, you can’t say that we didn’t leave it all there.
“Unfortunately, a few things didn’t go our way. You can take an optimistic point of view and say that there’s a good foundation to build on for 2021.”
And so a run in continental football, so optimistically anticipated at the beginning of the season with the elimination of Saprissa, arguably a stronger opponent than Olimpia, was eventually halted.
Montreal fans will be hoping it won’t take another five years before their team climbs back upon the international stage for another tilt at becoming CONCACAF’s Champion club.
CD Olimpia - Menjivar - Nunez, Leveron, Oliva Casildo, Portillo - Bernardez (Figueroa, 58), Deybi Flores, Pineda, Rodriguez (D Reyes, 84) - Arboleda (Cordova, 83), Bengtson (Hernandez, 76).
Bench not used - Fonseca, Orellana, Mejia, Garrido, Chirinos, Alvarez, J Reyes, Pinto
IMFC - Diop - Brault-Guillard, Camacho, Binks, Kizza - Sejdic, Wanyama, Piette (Assi, 83) - Okwonkwo, Toye (Jackson-Hamel, 53), Quioto
Bench not used - Pantemis, Sirois, Waterman, Yao, Ferdinand, Rea, Zouhir, Giraldo, Saliba