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Final

CONCACAF Champions League: Montreal Impact look to seize control of Group 3 in El Salvador

MONTREAL – Almost one year ago, on August 21, 2013, the Montreal Impact fell 1-0 to Heredia in Guatemala City in the CONCACAF Champions League Group 5, where they eventually finished second to the San Jose Earthquakes. That night, three players made their team’s starting lineup for the first time.

Wandrille Lefèvre was one of those three; Blake Smith (currently on loan at NASL side Indy Eleven) and the injured Adrian Lopez were the others. Lefèvre, now 24, has since won 12 starts in all competitions, his most recent a terrific performance in Saturday’s 1-0 win against the Chicago Fire – so good that Impact supporters voted him their man of the match.

The outcome of that Heredia game may not be winning experience, but it was experience nonetheless, which Lefèvre and his teammates hope will help produce a different result this Wednesday, when they face Salvadoran club FAS on the road in San Salvador (10 pm ET, Univision Deportes, Sportsnet in Canada).

“I think you have to consider that, last year, we were many youngsters – and I’m not criticizing the club, not at all; it was a decision, and I’m glad I played that game – thrown all at the same time in that environment, and it may not have been easy for us,” Lefèvre told reporters last weekend. “It had been a while since we’d played, and all of a sudden, we were faced with that environment.”

Impact forward Marco Di Vaio, who played 90 minutes against Chicago, has suggested that the entire team will travel to El Salvador, as Montreal will travel directly to their next match against the New York Red Bulls, coincidentally their other CCL Group 3 opponents. Lefèvre thus assumes a “more balanced” lineup against FAS than last year against Heredia.

“There’ll be veterans who can calm things down, and I think we have to stay calm and not panic over what’s in front of us,” Lefèvre said.

The context is also much different from last season, when Montreal's priority was qualifying for the MLS Cup Playoffs. Montreal are dead last in the Supporters' Shield standings but top of CCL Group 3 after defeating FAS 1-0 at home. They could put pressure on New York with a result in El Salvador.

With nothing to lose in MLS and everything to gain in the Champions League, Montreal have to “stop being afraid” and “impose our style,” said Lefèvre.

“I think we’ll see a totally different team in terms of intensity, of the physical impact they’ll enforce on us,” Lefèvre said of FAS. “We know, with teams down there in Central America, that it’s a very difficult environment. We’re expecting that, given what it was in Guatemala last year. We almost got out of there with a point [last year], but we’re clearly going for three. We’ll see. That’s why the win [over Chicago on Saturday] is important: for confidence. For confidence in what we can do.”