MONTREAL – For the Montreal Impact, the deficit in goal difference was nearly insurmountable. For San Jose fans, the wait was definitely insufferable. Would Montreal take their last CONCACAF Champions League game seriously? Would they allow CD Heredia to clinch the group?
After the Impact notched a 2-0 win against CD Heredia at Stade Saputo on Tuesday, but failed to reach the six-goal El Dorado that would have given a slim chance to prevail in the end, head coach Marco Schällibaum’s choice of words in assessing his team’s performance was all but innocent: His team had played “a very good, serious game.”
“With a bit more luck, we could have easily scored five or six,” Schällibaum told reporters after the game. “We wanted to play fair until the end, which we did.
“We had lots of chances, we hit the post twice,” he continued. “We could have also gotten a penalty kick – I hope they don’t fine me on this. That’s part of football. But our foundations were good tonight. [Daniele] Paponi went 100 miles an hour. Scoring will give him confidence. [Andrew] Wenger was heroic. He held the ball up a lot, and scored as well. The game will give confidence to a number of players ahead of our last six [MLS] games.”
Montreal’s starters were, for the most part, players whose playing time has been scarce this season – but “they’re not reserves,” insisted Schällibaum. Seven of them had also started in the Impact's 1-0 loss in Guatemala, though, and Wenger felt they had faced a somewhat similar challenge. The only difference was who took the points.
“They approached it just like they did down in Guatemala,” Wenger said. “They wanted to come out and play their style of play. We locked horns to see who would come out on top. They were attacking and so were we. It was pretty open.”
Despite the disappointment that comes with elimination, Schällibaum drew positive conclusions from the CCL experience. To him, the evening’s result was confirmation that, as he said all along, there was quality beyond the Impact regulars. That the Guatemala loss was a blemish on what should have been a great, victorious experience for both his younger guns and the club.
And for more such opportunities to come, Schällibaum knows what the objective is.
“The young players played away from home in Guatemala with bodyguards by their side. It was a nice experience. It will help them for next year, and we have to win the Canadian Championship to gain that experience,” Schällibaum said.