Montreal Impact making noise in the Champions League
College Contributor Network
Don't look now, but the Montreal Impact are one game away from reaching the CONCACAF Champions League Finals. Sure, this tournament isn't considered as prestigious as the Champions League over in Europe, but if you are a fan of American (or Canadian) soccer, then you should be ecstatic about the position the Impact find themselves in.
After easily advancing out of the group stages, the Impact were matched up in the quarterfinals against Pachuca, a Mexican side which struggled in league play but looked impressive in the Champions League.
Liga MX, the soccer league in Mexico, usually dominates the Champions League because they are able to spend more money than the other leagues, leading to more talented players and deeper rosters.
This has held MLS back in the Champions League because their rosters are not nearly as deep, making it difficult to play their best players in the Champions League when they have league play to worry about as well. Since the MLS Cup is usually a club's ultimate goal, they would rather play their best players during league play, as opposed to resting their best players in order to have them fresh for the Champions League.
Having said that, the Impact were able to get past Pachuca in dramatic fashion. Going into the second leg, the teams were tied two goals apiece, which was a very good result for the Impact. Away goals play a huge part in the Champions League because they are a "tiebreaker" if the teams are still even at the end of two legs.
Since the Impact scored two away goals, Pachuca would've had to either win the second leg, or tie while scoring at least three goals (since, for you non-mathematicians, three is larger than two). In the 93rd minute of play, the Impact were down one to nothing, and their chances of advancing seemed slim to none, until rookie forward Cameron Porter etched his name into the history books with an amazing goal, sending the crowd into a frenzy and stunning Pachuca, knocking them out of the tournament.
Before the game, Porter was an unknown Princeton graduate who played his way onto Montreal's roster, but Impact fans will forever remember his name after his game-winner propelled the Impact into the semifinals, leaving them as the only MLS team remaining in the tournament. After the game, faces from all over MLS were praising the Impact, because although the Impact were playing for their organization, they were really playing for all of MLS, sending a message to the rest of CONCACAF that this league is only getting better, so they better start respecting them.
In the first leg of the semifinals, the Impact played the Costa Rican club, Alajuelense. Alajuelense beat D.C. United in the previous round but made a lot of haters in the process by resorting to unsportsmanlike tactics, such as faking injuries to eat up the clock. (Yeah, that's common in soccer, but people got riled up all the same.)
The Impact were able to come out of the game victorious, winning two to nothing, and put themselves in a great position to reach the finals for the first time in the club's history. Last season, the Impact played terribly in MLS, finishing last in the Eastern Conference, but Argentine midfielder Ignacio Piatti has been a godsend for them, leading them to greater heights. Piatti came to the Impact towards the end of last season, and his impact (no pun intended) has been obvious. The Impact were also able to sign Belgian centerback Laurent Ciman, who wanted to come to Montreal from the Belgian Pro League because his daughter faced health issues that could be optimally treated in Montreal.
Back in the 2010-2011, Real Salt Lake reached the finals of the Champions League before losing to, you guessed it, a Mexican team. This is only the second time that an MLS team has come this far, so in a couple of weeks, many Americans will be rooting for a Canadian club to give their league some relevance around the world. As of right now, they are in good shape.
Adam Curtis is a freshman at American University. Growing up, he played soccer and tennis and is a die-hard D.C. sports fan. Follow him on Twitter: @actennis96