The latest heartbreak of a Major League Soccer side endeavoring to become the first to win the CONCACAF Champions League, in its current format, is now complete, as the Montreal Impact fell, and fell hard, 4-2 (5-3 on aggregate), to Liga MX side Club America in the second leg of the CCL final on Wednesday night.
Even the advantage of playing the second leg at home — as was also the case for Real Salt Lake in 2011 — wasn’t enough to push the team from salary cap- and roster-size-restricted league to CONCACAF glory. In truth, the Impact gave every last bit of effort they had, but ran out of gas — and belief — sometime around halftime.
The Impact started the game well enough, taking another early lead, just as they had in the first leg. Ignacio Piatti’s slaloming run along the end line, through three defenders, put the America defense into a scramble, which left the Argentine just enough space to slip Andres Romero through, where he dribbled sideways, past a pair of defenders of his own and fired a left-footed shot that beat Moises Munoz for a lead with just eight minutes on the clock.
The game and series were nearly leveled once again four minutes later, when Dario Benedetto nearly turned home a loose ball inside the penalty area, but could only put the ball onto the crossbar, mere inches from the whole of the ball crossing the line.
Piatti had a golden opportunity to doubled the Impact’s lead in the 24th minute, but his attempt to slide the ball under Munoz was thwarted after breaking in behind the America defense for a one-on-one chance.
America’s equalizer eventually came in the 50 minute, making Piatti and Montreal rue that golden chance missed 25 minutes earlier. Osvaldo Martinez’s cross found Bendetto all alone at the back post, where the Argentine forward unleashed a scissor kick from a tight angle that Kristian Nicht could do nothing to stop.
By the time the game (1-1) and series (2-2) were level, the wheels had fallen off for the Impact, who looked increasingly exhausted and second-best. Oribe Peralta headed home a loose ball from close range in the 64th minute, effectively giving America a two-goal series lead based on the away-goals tiebreaker, and Benedetto bagged his second of the game less than 90 seconds later, as he turned home Miguel Samudio’s cross to the near post. Just like that, 3-1 on the night and 4-2 in the series, with away goals on their side.
Benedetto completed his hat trick, and moved into a tie for the 2014-15 CCL Golden Boot in the process of doing so, in the 81st minute. Darwin Quintero played him through, Benedetto stopped on a dime to lose the closest defender and curled a left-footed beauty to the far post, past Nicht, to make it 4-1 on the night.
Jack McInerney played on and snagged a late goal, set up by Piatti, in the 88th minute, but it would prove to be nothing more than a consolation and an opportunity for the Impact faithful to rise to their feet and applaud and salute their side for their impressive, massively unlikely run.
The Impact return to MLS play next Saturday, for just their fifth game of the season, when they host the Portland Timbers at Stade Saputo, three days after they host Toronto FC in the first leg of the two sides’ Canadian Championship series.
Montreal Impact: Nicht, Toia (Tissot 70′), Ciman, Soumare, Reo-Coker, Donadel (McInerney 67′), Mallace (Bernier 79′), Duka, Piatti, Romero, Oduro
Goals: Romero (8′), McInerney (88′)
Club America: Munoz, Aguilar, Alvarado, Aguilar, Samudio, Guerrero, Martinez, Sambueza (Mares 87′), Quintero (Maduena 82′), Peralta (Arroyo 85′), Benedetto
Goals: Benedetto (50′, 66′, 81′), Perlate (64′)