The move came hours after the Impact’s loss to Canadian rivals Toronto that continued a five-match winless streak which includes four losses and just two goals scored, leaving Montreal with just 28 points, one off the bottom of the Eastern Conference table.
Assistant coach Mauro Biello, who has spent the last six seasons on staff at Montreal, will take over on an interim basis.
There was much speculation surrounding Klopas’s position after finishing last season – his first in charge – with the league’s worst record. However, they qualified for the CONCACAF Champions League via the Canadian Championship, and their run to the finals bought the head coach more time. Unfortunately, that time has run out with the club sitting on just 11 points from its last 11 matches.
Despite Montreal’s recent woes, the logjam at the bottom of the Eastern Conference means, while they are just a point off the bottom of the table, they also still remain largely in playoff contention just a point below the qualification line.
Biello’s first match in charge will be next weekend’s matchup with the Chicago Fire, a crucial matchup against a team a point below the Impact.
One of the weirder rumors in recent history has been put to bed by the Chicago Tribune.
Over the weekend, the gossip mill churned out a potential week-long loan of Chicago Fire goalkeeper Sean Johnson to the Montreal Impact for this Wednesday’s second leg of the CONCACAF Champions League final against Club America.
The unorthodox move, first reported by Goal.com, would’ve given Montreal relief from Evan Bush’s yellow-card suspension obtained in last week’s 1-1 draw at Estadio Azteca. It was also widely-panned by pundits on Twitter as an unfair exploitation of MLS contract rules.
Would Wolfsburg send Andre Schurrle to Bayern Munich for the UEFA Champions League just to be a pal? Of course not. And MLS apparently isn’t entertaining the move, either.
“There is zero chance that Sean Johnson will be loaned to the Montreal Impact for the CONCACAF Champions League final,” an MLS official said in an email sent late Sunday to the Tribune.
Unsubstantiated reports earlier Sunday suggested that Johnson might join the Impact for Wednesday’s CONCACAF Champions League title match against Club America at Olympic Stadium and would briefly reunite the Fire keeper with his former coach, Frank Klopas.
Whether by the book or not — and it does appear the loan would’ve defied the spirit of the rules, if not the substance — a Johnson move would’ve not only set a horrible precedent for Major League Soccer, but been a poor reflection on the competitive nature of the league. “Hey, teams in our league don’t have the depth to deal with the injury woes of a larger club” isn’t a rousing endorsement of the league.
Montreal’s hopes now rightly stand with an appeal of the suspension, which could stand up given the questionable nature of the deciding foul against Bush.
If Bush can’t go, the Impact’s options are extremely limited. New backup Erik Kronberg is ineligible due to his old club, Sporting KC, being in the tournament last season. John Smits is on short-term loan from NASL side Edmonton. Maxime Crepeau is recovering from an injury, and the club could theoretically add a goalkeeper from its USL side, FC Montreal.
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.
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.”
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).
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.
And, 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.
The 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.
Desperation lead to tension and thrills in an entertaining CONCACAF Champions League semifinal second leg between Montreal and Alajuelense, and the Impact are ecstatic to have made club and national history on Wednesday night.
Frank Klopas’ side is the first Canadian side to make the CCL final, and will look to become the first Major League Soccer team to win the title in CCL era (DC United and the L.A. Galaxy won the CONCACAF Champions Cup in 1998 and 2000, respectively).
And despite an unfortunate racial undercurrent to the post game thanks to Alajuelense fans making monkey noises at Dominic Oduro, the Impact can be happy with their on-field triumph in a game filled with good-looking goals.
“We knew we were coming to a difficult place to play with a tough team,” said Impact head coach Frank Klopas. “They have a tremendous push with the quality of players they have and their fans. We scored an away goal, which was very important. The quick goal in the second half brought them back into the game. It was a great semifinal and a great moment for our club, the city of Montreal and Major League Soccer.”
“The score line isn’t important for me,” explained Bakary Soumare. “It’s the result that counts. We were here to get to the next round and we did what we needed to do that. Their last goal came as they pushed everyone forward, trying desperately to score in the final moments. We are very happy with what we’ve been able to accomplish and now our goal is to win the cup.”
The final appearance is a solid statement for MLS, whose schedule puts its league in a poor position entering the knockout rounds. Consider that Montreal’s Marco Di Vaio was among the tournament’s leading scorers, but left the club when last season’s MLS campaign was over. Now with a different squad still finding match fitness — at least compared to its traditional calendar-following opponents — the Impact are 180 minutes or so from history.
Montreal will next face either Herediano or Club America, with the Costa Rican side leading 3-0 after one leg. That second leg is Wednesday in Mexico at 10 p.m. ET.