The Montreal Impact are on the verge of accomplsihing something that has never been done before. After a massive 2-0 win against Costa Rican side, Alajuelense in front of 33, 675 fans at Olympic Stadium, the Impact are just one game away from reaching the CONCACAF Champions League final.
However, Montreal must now go to Costa Rica and play in what could be the most hostile atmosphere they have ever faced.
“The referees have a tendency to get influenced there, so we have to be sharp and alert. Certain fouls sometimes don’t go your way and you’re down one man and you’ve got to be careful. But we’ve got a lot of experience on this team,” said team captain, Patrice Bernier following last Wednesday’s big win.
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What makes the semifinal run in the continent’s most prestigious club tournament so remarkable is the fact that the Impact finished dead last in all of Major League Soccer last season. They had even less points than the now defunct, Chivas USA did.
Frank Klopas’ men were able to win the Amway Canadian Championship to qualify for the group stage of the Champions League. They won their group featuring fellow MLS side, the New York Red Bulls and then blew by Mexican club, Pachuca in the quarterfinals. They now find themselves on the brink of something special.
“We put ourselves in a great position,” said Montreal midfielder, Nigel Reo-Coker following their home win against Alajuelense. “If you look at our performance, we’ve got to be very confident when we go there.
“We have to have the same mental approach, the same commitment as a team and the same work rate.”
Alajuelense head coach, Oscar Ramirez isn’t conceding anything yet though as the two teams are now set to face off in Costa Rica for the second leg on April 7th.
“We think we did our best and we will do the same in Costa Rica,” he said through an interpreter last Wednesday. “Maybe we will have one of those magic nights when the Costa Ricans are playing in their typical style.
“But we know we’re playing a good team that does a great job defending.”
Montreal will have to get the job done though without the services of their sensational rookie striker, Cameron Porter who went down against the New England Revolution on Saturday afternoon. Despite being drafted in the 3rd round of this year’s MLS SuperDraft, Porter has made an immediate impact with Montreal scoring the crucial goal to put his club past Pachuca in the quarterfinals.
“Let’s keep our fingers crossed,” coach Frank Klopas said after the Revolution game. “I don’t want to speculate. Hopefully we can get some good news when we get back to Montreal and he’s seen by the doctors”.
Even with Porter out of the important tilt in Costa Rica, Montreal will be confident of their chances to reach the Champions League final. With a 2-0 lead and a team that looks to be more united than ever, the Impact find themselves only 90 minutes from making history.
No Canadian team has ever reached the final of a continental tournament and only one MLS side has ever gone that far in the Champions League era. Real Salt Lake fell to Mexican club, Monterrey in the final back in 2011.
Indeed, the unlikeliest of teams, the Montreal Impact, could be ready to shock the world by extending their brilliant run in the CONCACAF Champions League.