- Montreal and Club America are tied 1-1 after the first leg
- No MLS club has ever won the CONCACAF Champions League in the newest format
- Montreal will be without goalkeeper Evan Bush
Tomorrow is the day the CONCACAF Champions League finds out if it will crown its first-ever Major League Soccer club as champions, or if the wait must continue. With the second leg upon us, set for an 8PM ET kickoff on Wednesday from Montreal, there are plenty of story lines to discuss.
The biggest surrounds Impact goalkeeper Evan Bush. The 29-year-old Ohio product is suspended following his late yellow card in the first leg, and CONCACAF did not allow Montreal to appeal. The one-match suspension accrues after two yellow cards, and while they wipe clean after the quarterfinal round, Bush picked up his first against Alajulense in the semis.
Thus, while there was much speculation involving the goalkeeper situation at Stade Olympique, some involving one-day loans of intriguing degrees, Montreal has snatched up 33-year-old Kristian Nicht from NASL side Indy Eleven on a transfer. Nicht formerly played in the German first and second divisions, and leads the NASL in saves in the early going of the season. Nicht will likely start, with Bush sidelined as well as Eric Kronberg is cup-tied, Maxime Crepeau is injured, and first-leg backup John Smits was on a short-term loan.
Montreal isn’t the only club with some numbers issues. Club America is playing its third match in 10 days, and it’s taken its toll. Captain Ruben Sambueza and midfielder Daniel Guerrero both came off Sunday’s Liga MX match due to injury. While both are reportedly potential green lights Wednesday against Montreal, nothing is a given. Montreal, however, has had ample rest. This will be the Canadian club’s first match in any competition since way back on April 11 (other than the first leg), so fatigue will not be an excuse.
Should the Impact come out on top, it will be the first time an MLS side has won the competition since the Los Angeles Galaxy in 2000, when the format was vastly different. Since moving to a two-leg format and changing the competition’s name in 2008, a side from the United States or Canada has not won. The last – and only – MLS club to even make the finals was in the 2010/11 competition when Real Salt Lake lost to Monterrey 3-2 on aggregate. RSL took a 2-2 draw into a road second leg and fell 1-0.
This time around, the MLS side will have home field advantage, and it should be a massive one. The Impact have sold 61,004 tickets for this match, a new Canadian soccer record breaking the Stade Olympique’s own set in 2012 when David Beckham came to town.
The first leg was an entertaining affair. Montreal got a shocking early lead, and they held on for dear life while Club America pummeled them with everything they have. Should the second leg follow that script, it won’t bode well for Montreal, as the Mexican side looked dangerous in the attack. Montreal needs to stay on the offensive to maintain a balance, and while it will be tempting to play defensively with the away goal, it’s practically impossible to ask Montreal to keep the visitors off the scoresheet.