CD Olimpia has been playing football since 1917, five years after the newly formed club’s members saw the light, having originally been founded as a baseball club.
They’ve been kicking ball ever since and share club colours and a nickname with Spanish giants, Real Madrid - Los Merengues. But there the similarity ends...
They arrive in Montreal as Honduras’ most successful club with 31 national titles and 17 runners-up spots. They are used to domestic success and as former player Romell Quioto, now with the Impact, notes, “It’s been a great experience for me, I know the players [but] MLS is very demanding and a more organized league than that of Honduras. “
International success since the onset of CONCACAF Champions League in 2008 has eluded Honduran clubs however, none of which has yet progressed to a continental semi-final. Most local hopes are pinned on Olimpia in becoming the first to do so. They were continental champions twice before in 1972 and 1988, when the regions’ clubs contested the Champions Cup.
Olimpia’s success over Seattle Sounders in the previous round was significantly shocking, the MLS club a hot favourite to progress, failed, allowing their Honduran opponents back into both games in the final ten minutes, each drawn 2-2. This must be a source of some concern for Thierry Henry and his men; the Impact has let slip two-goal leads in the last ten minutes twice already this season in just four outings.
Olimpia are nothing if not resilient, but Montreal with the right levels of preparation and concentration, should establish a strong platform this evening from which to approach a tricky second-leg in Tegucigalpa.
The Impact’s only shut-out this season has come in this competition at Stade Olympique against the team which eliminated CD Olimpia from 2019’s CONCACAF League, a pre-qualifying tournament for this competition. A repeat this evening is a realistic and likely prospect. And with four games now under their belts, Montreal is in better shape than against Saprissa. They should do enough tonight to enter the second-leg a couple of goals to the good.
The element of surprise has gone now too for tonight’s visitors. That Seattle result will have sounded alarm bells in Montreal; the Honduran challenge will not be taken lightly.
Olimpia’s task has not been made any easier by the absence of suspended Yustin Arboleda who claimed both goals in the home draw with the Sounders, and the non-arrival in Montreal of Jonathan Paz and Mayron Flores, neither able to obtain visas. Impact should be warned though, the Hondurans were minus six possible starters a couple of short weeks ago at CenturyLink Field.
In that game they rocked lethargic Seattle with an early goal (4 mins), building the confidence and resolve that would eventually take them through on a penalty shoot-out.
But they were forced into a rearguard battle. Sounders managed to get ahead in the tie, had 65% possession and after the break proceedings played out almost entirely in the Olimpia half. The awarding of a free-kick in the 86th minute during a rare Olimpia foray forward provided an unexpected opportunity and the Hondurans gleefully accepted when Carlos Pineda rifled home from distance.
The rest is now history, Seattle losing the shoot-out 2-4, and becoming the first MLS scalp ever for Olimpia in Champions League play.
Montreal will need to be wary of a couple of prolific strikers in Jorge Benguche (17 goals/30 games this season) and experienced Jerry Bengtson (14/27), neither of whom scored in the previous round. Bengtson may be familiar to Impact-watchers, having played in two 1-0 victories for New England Revolution over the Impact in 2012.
Thierry Henry will have a problem in the central striking role should Bojan’s muscle problem prevail, in which case a start for in-form Maxi Urruti is on the cards. Newcomers Maciel and Wanyama are also available this evening.
While it must be tempting for Henry to throw the former Tottenham man into the fray, the Stade Olympique surface must be a consideration given the Kenyan’s history with knee problems. Certainly the importance of the competition has not prevented the Impact from blooding new players in the Champions League in previous years; seven debuted against Pachuca in 2015.
Olimpia is currently showing good form in the Honduran Clausura sitting two points behind Motagua (eliminated from Champions League play by Atlanta United this season), although their last brace of domestic games, a draw at home to fifth-placed Vida and 0-0 at bottom club Honduras Progresso as recently as Saturday, represents a blip by their standards.
But the 2-2 draw in Seattle was the first time they avoided defeat in their last seven away CONCACAF Champions League games against Mexican, MLS or Costa Rican opposition. Montreal tonight, will not be expecting to add number to that statistic.
IMFC - Diop - Waterman, Fanni, Binks - Waterman, Piette, Taider, Corrales - Okwonkwo, Urruti, Quioto
CDO - Menjivar - Nunez, Casildo, Leveron, Mejia - Pinto, Pineda, Flores, Garrido - Bengtson, Benguche
Match Officials -
Referee - Adonai Escobedo (MEX)
Asst Refs - William Arrieta (CRC), Jose Martinez (MEX)
4th Official - Luis Enrique Santander (MEX)
Footnote: Tonight’s teams have met previously in CONCACAF Champions League, when points were up for grabs in October 2008. Impact won 2-1 in Tegucigalpa through two Roberto Brown goals, the winner a penalty. Brown was again the Impact marksman a few weeks later in Montreal when the teams played out a 1-1 draw.