CONCACAF Champions League quarter-finals, 2009 - For Montreal fans the first-leg was an epic for all the right reasons, the second an epic for all the wrong ones....
Over 55,000 piled in to Stade Olympique on 25 February 2009 to witness Montreal Impact of the USL take on and defeat Santos Laguna of Liga-MX. The Montrealers were a long-shot, a heavy underdog, but two goals from Cuban international striker Eduardo Sebrango elevated them into previously unknown territory.
They would head to Torreon in northern Mexico for the return just over a week later, two goals to the good and slight favourites to progress. Champions League semi-final was virgin land for any Canadian club.
But despite taking the lead twice in Mexico and extending their advantage to three by half time and the advantage of away goals, things didn’t go according to plan.
What happened next was the greatest collapse I have ever seen on a football field as the Impact, out of season, simply ran out of steam.
There still wasn’t much concern when Matias Vuoso levelled for Santos on the night. His 52nd minute goal made the score 2-2. The Mexicans still needed three to win, and that was only if Montreal didn’t score again! Earlier Roberto Brown and Eduardo Sebrango with his third goal of the tie, had established a 2-1 for the Impact on 38 mins.
And when the same Santos Laguna player made the second-leg score 3-2 with 15 minutes left, it still seemed a tall order for the Mexicans, even with visible signs suggesting the Montreal players were flagging.
But the white-shirted Montrealers dug deep. The game headed into added time, score still the same. Everything would be alright. The Mexicans still needed two to avoid elimination and humiliation.
Guess what? They got them.
It was back in the day when we weren’t familiar with the name Darwin Quintero, but 5 March 2009 was the night when the Colombian front man, later to play in MLS for Houston and Minnesota, would etch his name on the mind of Impact fans, clearly not in a good way...
It was devastating. He scored twice; two minutes into added time, then three minutes later. Santos Laguna’s superior match-fitness told in the end, but even at that conceding twice in added time seemed just unthinkable.
So thirteen long years later and still memory-scarred, Montreal has been offered it’s chance to exorcise that 2009 nightmare. The two clubs will meet again in the round of 16 of the 2022 edition of the continental club championship.
The first-leg at Torreon’s Estadio Corona will take place between the 15-17 February and the second at Montreal’s Stade Olympique between February 22-24 in a reversal of that 2008/09 quarter-final series. Montreal earns the right to host the second-leg as a seeded, or Pot 1 ranked, club.
Santos Laguna qualified for the CONCACAF Champions League by finishing runner-up in Liga-MX in 2021 and will be a hugely difficult opponent, in fact the most difficult draw possible in the Round of 16.
Montreal has played three home second-legs in CONCACAF Champions League. On two of those occasions they prevailed; v Pachuca in 2015 and v Saprissa (2020), the solitary failure of course came against Club America in that 2015 final.
Interestingly Montreal has never won a second-leg at Stade Olympique, recording two draws and a defeat.
The other ties in the Round of 16 are as follows...
- León (Mexico) vs. Club Deportivo Guastatoya (Guatemala)
- Seattle Sounders FC (United States) vs. Motagua (Honduras)
- Colorado Rapids (United States) vs. Comunicaciones F.C. (Guatemala)
- New York City FC (United States) vs. Santos de Guápiles (Costa Rica)
- PUMAS (Mexico) vs. Deportivo Saprissa (Costa Rica)
- New England Revolution (United States) vs. Cavaly A.S. (Haiti)
- Cruz Azul (Mexico) vs. Forge FC (Canada)
The Champions League quarterfinals will be played in March: 1st Leg between the 8th and 10th, 2nd Leg between 15th and 17th.
The semis are scheduled for April (5-7th and 12-14th), with the final taking place between April 26-28 and May 3-5.
The champion club earns a berth to the 2022 FIFA Club World Cup to represent CONCACAF.
PSG v CF Montreal, anyone?