CONCACAF Champions League: Club America vs. Montreal Impact, April 22, 2015

Club América vs. Montreal Impact
Estadio Azteca, Mexico City
CONCACAF Champions League final, first leg
April 22, 9 pm ET
TV: Fox Sports 2, Unimás-US,; Sportsnet World-CAN, TVA Sports 2-CAN

This is it.

Only two teams remain in the 2014-15 CONCACAF Champions League, and the ultimate fight for continental supremacy begins Wednesday night as the Montreal Impact face Club América at the emblematic Estadio Azteca in Mexico City.

The 2014 Canadian champion Montreal Impact qualified for the final in dramatic fashion on April 7. Costa Rica’s Alajuelense scored four goals in the last 45 minutes of the semifinal second leg, but goals from Jack McInerney and Andres Romero at the Morera Soto made the difference as the Impact won the tie 4-4 on away goals.

The following night, América came back from a 3-0 first-leg defeat to Herediano in very convincing fashion. By the 26th minute of the second leg, they were leading the series 4-3, and they ended up winning 6-0 on the night at the Azteca (6-3 on aggregate). Dario Benedetto was the star of the match with four goals and an assist.

Montreal last played on April 11, when they lost 3-0 to the Houston Dynamo at BBVA Compass Stadium. MLS granted the Impact a bye week last weekend, allowing them to travel to Mexico last Thursday. Their initially scheduled game vs. San Jose next Saturday has also been postponed. Montreal are the only team in MLS to have played just four games thus far this season, and they sit at the bottom of the Eastern Conference with two points.

But América has kept going. They played – and suffered – last weekend, losing 4-0 at home to Ronaldinho’s Querétaro. Between the two legs of the final, América will also travel to face rivals and current Liga MX leaders Chivas in Guadalajara next Sunday. This weekend’s loss pushed América back to sixth in the division, with 22 points.

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How they got here:

  • América: Defeated Saprissa 5-0 on aggregate in quarterfinals, defeated Herediano 6-3 on aggregate in semifinals; Group 8 winner, seed No. 2 (3-0-1; 10 pts, 19 GF/3 GA)
  • Montreal: Defeated Pachuca on away goals (3-3 aggregate) in quarterfinals, defeated Alajuelense on away goals (4-4 aggregate) in semifinals; Group 3 winner, seed No. 4 (3-0-1; 10 pts, 6 GF/3 GA)

The Opponent – What you need to know about América

Coach: Gustavo Matosas (Uruguay)

Position: 6th in Liga MX (6-4-4; 22 pts, 15 GF/15 GA; Last five games: L-D-W-L-W)

Best CCL/Champions' Cup finish: Winners (1977, 1987, 1990, 1992, 2006)

Star player: Darío Benedetto

Oribe Peralta grabs headlines, but the spotlight is on Benedetto these days. His formidable four-goal performance against Herediano, where his ruthlessness in front of goal and ability to peel away from markers, sounded the death knell of the Costa Rican side and brought América here. The 24-year-old, who transferred from Tijuana this winter, already has four goals to his name in Liga MX this year. It makes it all the more surprising that the second leg against Herediano was his first CCL appearance of the season. Surely, his second is coming Wednesday.

Possible Lineups:

  • América (4-4-2): González; Aguilar, Pimentel, Aguilar, Samudio; Quintero, Pellerano, Martínez, Sambueza; Benedetto, Peralta
  • Montreal (4-2-3-1): Bush; Cabrera, Ciman, Soumare, Toia; Mallace, Reo-Coker; Oduro, Piatti, Romero; McInerney

Why América will win: Because they’re América. They’re one of the CONCACAF Champions League powerhouses. Losing at the Azteca is simply not an option here, especially given the weekend’s home result. Their attack is all-powerful, and their options on the bench are just as potent as the likely starters. They will pounce on any gaps in concentration, which Montreal have been guilty of lately. And, or course, all of that happens in front of a probable CCL attendance record-setting crowd.

Why Montreal will win: Because they can exploit space on counters, and América will leave plenty of those out of sheer enthusiasm. Their Mexican opponents will have to take the game to the Impact, who won’t have the pressure of entertaining the massive Azteca crowd – or even to get out of there with a win. Suspensions at the back also leave América without CCL regulars Ventura Alvarado and Paolo Goltz. Montreal will try to take advantage of potential lapses in communication.