2015 CONCACAF Champions League final

Montreal Impact get helping hand, sign goalkeeper from NASL’s Indy Eleven

2 Comments

Ahead of the second leg of their CONCACAF Champions League final with Club America on Wednesday, the score is tied at 1-1 after the first leg in Mexico City, the Montreal Impact has been handed a huge boost.

With first-choice goalkeeper Evan Bush suspended after a yellow card in the first leg (which they couldn’t even appeal to CONCACAF about) and second-choice ‘keeper Erik Kronberg ineligible due to already playing in the competition for Sporting Kansas City, Frank Klopas’ side were in a bit of sticky situation.

Add on top of that the fact that MLS banned any intra-league loan deal from happening and ahead of arguably the Impact’s biggest game in club history, they were without an experienced goalkeeper. That’s when the NASL’s Indy Eleven arrived to save the day.

Late on Monday it was announced that Indy had agreed to sell German goalkeeper Kristian Nicht to Montreal ahead of the CCL final. Nicht, 33, has spent time in training camps with Montreal and has been in and around the squad in recent matches. His signing ensures that Montreal now has an experienced goalkeeper for their massive match against their Mexican counterparts in the Olympic Stadium on Wednesday.

Nicht has spent the majority of his career in Germany, playing in the Bundesliga and the second-tier, before moving to the U.S. in 2012 and since having stints with the Rochester Rhinos and the Indy Eleven.

At the eleventh hour, Montreal has been helped out massively by an NASL club as the Impact aim to become the first MLS side in history to win the CONCACAF Champions League title. Nicht will likely start but third-choice ‘keeper John Smits is also around for the Impact if they need him.

Due to the away goals rule, if Nicht keeps a shutout on Wednesday in Quebec then Montreal will be champs of North America. No pressure.

Despite surprising draw in first leg, Montreal left to bemoan awful non-red card (video)

8 Comments

Color us impressed with the heavy-underdog Montreal Impact, even if their minds were elsewhere after a 1-1 draw versus Club America could’ve been an even better result.

The sports books listed Club America favorite by as many as two goals for the first leg of the CONCACAF Champions League final on Wednesday. After all, this was Montreal’s first dance in the CCL against a five-time champion playing at Estadio Azteca.

[ MATCH RECAP: Club America 1-1 Montreal ]

Frank Klopas’ crew walked out of Mexico on level terms. Better actually, scoring an Ignacio Piatti road goal and leading for 74 minutes of the match before Oribe Peralta netted an 89th minute equalizer.

Stars do that, and Club America has plenty, but the Impact showed they have the team ingredients to shock CONCACAF.

It should’ve gone even better for Klopas’ crew, as this was only whistled as a yellow card. If it isn’t denying a clear goal-scoring opportunity, we’re not sure what is, and it’s a shady call even considering the intimidated decisions that generally happen in Azteca.

Would it surprise you to hear that Klopas was pretty ticked off about the non-red? From Goal.com:

“For me, it was incredible that again, in a game like this in a final, instead of the players having to dictate the game and the fans enjoying the game, we have to talk about the referees,” Klopas told reporters. “We’re in the 44th minute, clearly a breakaway that’s not called for a red card.

“I don’t know how it’s a yellow card when we have a player going one on one in on goal and he gets taken from behind. For me, I just want the refs to call a fair game and let the game be decided on the field by the players. That’s all we ask for.”

Still, Montreal is happy with the effort and the opportunity to make history next Wednesday in front of a sold-out home crowd.

Then again, Club America can walk away from the game knowing its shooting was a bit off and a cranky crossbar denied another goal. Plus, Peralta’s late equalizer was a nice consolation for the drawing home side. From the Associated Press:

“Despite not getting a win, the tie gives me good vibrations because it’s hard to generate football and we had like 12 or 13 scoring chances today,” America coach Gustavo Matosas said. “Fortunately, for us Oribe came through for us. Montreal is a good team, that’s why they are at the final, but I’m confident that we can get a win at their place.”

CONCACAF Champions League Final preview: Should big underdogs Montreal play with fire at Azteca?

2 Comments

The eyes of Major League Soccer fans are on the Montreal Impact. And with nearly 60,000 tickets sold for the second leg of the CONCACAF Champions League final against Club America next week, many are hoping the underdog Impact can just return from Wednesday’s 9 p.m. ET first leg in a spot to keep possible an MLS coronation.

A CONCACAF Champions League title has eluded the league since the tournament was renamed in 2008, and an MLS side hasn’t won the dang thing since 2000. In fact, Montreal is just the fifth CCL finalist in league history (MLS is 2-2).

[ MORE: UEFA Champions League preview ]

So here come the Impact, holder of a pair of the tournament’s Top Five attendance records and the right to square off with mighty Club America in a two-legged affair beginning Wednesday at Estadio Azteca.

Yes it’s that Club America, the Mexican squadron which has never lost a CCL final and boasts the second-most titles in history (Their five one shy of Cruz Azul’s six). A club led by stars Oribe Peralta and Pablo Aguilar, and a bevy of players to wear the national team colors of Mexico and Paraguay amongst others (including recent USMNT call-up Ventura Alvarado).

They’ll take on the Impact, an international collection of MLS talent itself which includes just a quartet of Canadians, all of them young Homegrown Players, but holds the nation’s club soccer history in its hands. A 50-person traveling party hit Mexico last week, with eight security guards following the Impact around the country. Road fans do have the luxury of $3 tickets, but also the fierce atmosphere of Azteca.

source: APAnd, oh yeah, clear underdog status. Here’s what Montreal head coach Frank Klopas said to impactmontreal.com.

“We know we are the underdog, but we’ve been the underdog since the beginning of the tournament and we are still here. In your career, whether as a coach or a player, you may not get another chance like this, so it’s important that we enjoy the experience as much as possible.”

And how about Canada? The Northern neighbors only have one shot at the CCL every year, as bogus competition rules state that the MLS Cup or Supporters Shield berths do not apply to clubs from Canada. Of course, the three MLS sides from the Great White North also have automatic semifinal berths in their qualifying tournament, the Canadian Championships, so complaints shouldn’t be too loud.

Make no mistake about it, this Impact team is the underdog here. Club America is a two-goal favorite tonight in Mexico, and the odds are nearly the same for a 1-0 Impact win (28:1) as a 5-0 America win (22:1). At least for tonight, this is Rocky and Ivan Drago if the Italian Stallion’s trophy case included a pair of Canadian Championships instead of 10-straight heavyweight title defenses and a won rematch against Clubber Lang.

So how can Montreal do it? That’s the million dollar question for Frank Klopas, but it obviously starts with defending an America attack that was paced by Dario Benedetto (below right) in the semifinal, with the 24-year-old Argentine scoring four goals. Watch America’s display here, as they erased a first-leg deficit to Club Herediano in style.

source: Getty ImagesThe Impact’s best bet may be to somewhat follow the blueprint that led them past Pachuca, a pair of scoring draws including two in the road first leg; Playing with fire could be part of the philosophy.

The problem is America can defend quite well itself, and their back liners do well in possession. After Pablo Aguilar — not to be confused with teammate Paul Aguilar, who also starts in the back — watch out for midfielder Rubens Sambueza.

The 31-year-old Argentine is a complete threat, and will keep Piatti on his toes and, often enough, on the turf. Here’s where having Cup-tied Eric Alexander would be a boon for the Impact, not to mention injured Justin Mapp, but Jack McInerney, Marco Donadel and Piatti will have to do the trick.

With the beloved Canadiens aiming to sweep the Ottawa Senators after a 7 p.m. ET puckdrop in Ontario, how amped up will Quebec be if the Habs complete the task and the Impact can pick up a win or a scoring draw in Mexico? Let’s hope we find out.