MEXICO CITY – The Montreal Impact aren’t going to Estadio Azteca merely to stay alive against CONCACAF Champions League final opponent Club América.
Montreal have embraced the "underdog" tag, which has served them well throughout the tournament. On Tuesday, goalkeeper Evan Bush recalled with a smirk that media suggested, before the first leg of Montreal's quarterfinal tie against Pachuca, that a 3-1 defeat would be a decent result – not unlike what some Mexican sports TV shows have been suggesting this week.
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That quarterfinal, however, went much better than that at Pachuca. So much so that, despite a 2-2 tie, Montreal felt disappointed with coughing up a 2-0 lead.
That night, center back Bakary Soumare sounded the most upset about the result when meeting with the press. It was thus only natural that he would be dismissive of the virtues of a “good loss” in Wednesday’s first leg against Club América (9 pm ET, FOX Sports 2, UniMás in US, Sportsnet World, TVA Sports 2 in Canada, match preview).
“I don’t think [losing 3-1] is a good result,” Soumare told reporters on Tuesday. “We’re not here to lose. We’re here to get a result. There’s no such thing as losing a game 3-1 and saying it’s a good result. There’s no such thing in football. At least, not in my agenda. If people say that, that’s for them to think. But I know for myself, for my teammates and for the guys, we don’t look at it as a good result. It’s not what we're going for, as well.”
Added Bush: “You don’t really want to talk about what scoreline is a good loss. You never want to talk about if we lose 2-0 or 2-1. That shouldn’t cross your mind. You want to go in with a positive mindset and try to get the result we’re capable of getting.”
In the Champions League era (since 2008-09), only one team has won the first leg of a final away from home: Atlante emerged victorious 2-0 at Cruz Azul in 2009 and lifted the trophy after drawing the second leg 0-0. But even draws in the first leg seem to favor the host of that leg. Over three such draws, the host twice went on to win the tournament after the second leg (Monterrey at Salt Lake in 2011, and Cruz Azul at Toluca in 2014).
The two home wins in the first leg, meanwhile, translated into split results. Cruz Azul beat Pachuca 2-1 in 2010 but lost the series on away goals, while Monterrey beat Santos Laguna 2-0 and held on to win 3-2 on aggregate.
History aside, the Impact know that winning in the Azteca is a monumental task.
“If we can win the game, it'd be something extraordinary,” Impact assistant coach Mauro Biello said. “But if we're able to score a goal and not concede any, it’d be a very important result for us. In a game like we had at Pachuca, we scored two goals. It gave us the confidence, when we got back to Montreal, to win in the quarters.”
Montreal have a similar opportunity on Wednesday. But they know what kind of damage América can inflict. Not only have they watched countless videos of their final opponents, but they’ve also seen them in the flesh.
It doesn't detract from their confidence.
“When we were down here for preseason, we went to the game that they won 5-0 at home [against Chiapas],” Bush said. "Then they won 6-0 [against Herediano] at home. It’s been a little bit up and down [for Club América]. You know they’re capable of winning big, but you also know that they’re a bit vulnerable in some areas.”
Olivier Tremblay covers the Montreal Impact for MLSsoccer.com.