MONTREAL – The Impact are one step closer to history.
An exceptional first quarter-hour saw Ignacio Piatti and Victor Cabrera score the only two goals of the game as Montreal defeated Alajuelense 2-0 in the opening leg of their CONCACAF Champions League semifinal tie, on Wednesday night in front of 33,675 fans at the Olympic Stadium.
Montreal will thus take a two-goal advantage – with no away goals conceded – to Estadio Alejandro Morera Soto, site of the second leg of this tie on Tuesday, April 7. They could yet become the first Canadian team to ever reach the CCL final.
Head coach Frank Klopas, suspended for this match, was replaced on the sideline by assistant Mauro Biello, while winger Justin Mapp, sidelined after surgery to a broken arm, necessitated a shift in the lineup. Dominic Oduro moved back to the midfield, while rookie Cameron Porter started the match up top.
Alajuelense showed their cards early on, placing six men on the central line at kickoff, but Montreal still took the game to them in the opening stages and wasted little time to draw first blood. In the ninth minute, Oduro – excellent as a right midfielder on the night – beat his man on the right and put in a low cross. At the penalty spot, lone striker Porter dummied it, leaving Piatti to jinx past his marker and blast the ball just under the crossbar and in.
Montreal added the second five minutes later, after Piatti won a corner by forcing goalkeeper Dexter Lewis into a fine diving save. Marco Donadel’s ball from the corner flag touched off a couple players before it fell for Cabrera, who stabbed it in.
The visitors tried to play many a long ball behind the Impact defense, but most were inaccurate and Montreal defended the others well. Alajuelense found better chances after the break, notably in the 51st minute when a Johan Venegas drive deflected on Laurent Ciman, but ‘keeper Evan Bush adjusted his save attempt and catched it.
The Impact brought more men behind the ball late on, but found chances on the counter. Alajuelense attacked with numbers, leaving acres of space for the likes of Oduro and substitute Maxim Tissot to run into, but without success. Most importantly, though, Montreal contained Alajuelense up to the final whistle.
The Impact will be back in action this Saturday, March 21, when they face the New England Revolution at Gillette Stadium in league play.