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, futbol.univision.com-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.
- Exploring Estadio Azteca | MLS Now (4/22)
- Impact confident of CCL result despite long odds | MLS Now (4/22)
- CCL Pick 'Em: Can the Impact beat Club America at Azteca (4/22)
- Impact make it clear "we're not here to lose" (4/22)
- Impact not intimidated by daunting Estadio Azteca atmosphere (4/22)
- Six reasons the Montreal Impact will upset Club America in the final (4/22)
- Members of 2011 RSL team recall run to CCL final (4/21)
- The final that almost never happened (4/21)
- How bad has it been for MLS teams playing in Mexico? (4/21)
- Pressure? Obligation to Win? The latest from Club America | MLS Now (4/21)
- Impact sell out the Big O (4/21)
- MLS Now on location in Mexico City (4/21)
- Montreal expecting Club América's best despite bad weekend loss (4/20)
- Impact know they can't be afriad of Club América's vaunted attack (4/20)
- Watch Real Salt Lake's magical run to 2011 CCL final (4/20)
- Club América blasted by Querétaro in leauge play (4/18)
- Impact near sellout for final leg at Olympic Stadium (4/17)
- Montreal preparing for Mexico City elevation (4/16)
- Everything you need to know about Club America (4/10)
- Why numbers say Impact have a fighting chance (4/9)
- Go behind the scenes of Montreal's thrilling semifinal triumph (4/8)
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.
- 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.
- Find more Impact news at ImpactMontreal.com
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.