MONTREAL – For many MLS teams, the CONCACAF Champions League can be a distraction from the task at hand. For the Montreal Impact, it's a rare chance to find positives in this season.
Wins have been rare in the Impact’s MLS campaign (3-13-5, 14 pts), with he playoffs seemingly out of reach. But well-timed results against Edmonton and Toronto in the 2014 Amway Canadian Championship brought them to the CONCACAF Champions League.
Toronto got a bit of revenge last Saturday, inflicting more damage to the Impact in the league with a 2-0 win at Stade Saputo, meaning Montreal must turn the page swiftly. They host the first CCL Group 3 game this Tuesday against El Salvador’s FAS (8 pm ET, Sportsnet in Canada).
“A cup can always salvage a season, if you will,” Impact captain Patrice Bernier told reporters on Monday. “It’s up to us to start that game knowing that every possibility’s there.”
FAS lost on Saturday as well, dropping the first game of their Apertura 2014 season 1-0 away at Dragón. A downsized squad arrived in Montreal on Sunday due to visa problems. Only 14 players – including one goalkeeper – made the trip without their head coach. FAS’ sporting director will manage the team in Montreal.
It adds to the aura of mystery that often comes with Central American teams, but Montreal head coach Frank Klopas knows a bit about the club: former Chicago Fire boss Carlos De Los Cobos, whose technical director at the time was Klopas, managed FAS and the national team of El Salvador.
“It’s a good technical team,” Klopas said of FAS. “Obviously the style of play and our league are totally different. But they're good technical players. It's not a team that we should underestimate at no point. It’s a historic club that’s been around for many years.”
Montreal are hoping to take advantage of FAS’ long travel and lack of options, which won’t be an issue for their other Group 3 opponents, the New York Red Bulls.
“We won’t talk about goals, but we have to start with energy and push, Bernier said. “We think we have more athletic qualities [than FAS]. We can take advantage from that, push – theirs was a long trip –, be the ones who dominate, who influence the game and not the ones who just wait, trying to find out who [the opponents] are.”