No one said it would be easy for the Montreal Impact.
After losing the first leg of their Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League semifinals, 3-0, Club America walloped Herediano, 6-0, on Wednesday, putting them through to the final, where they will be favored against Montreal.
It's a daunting task ahead of the Impact, as they will be going up against the top team in Liga MX over the last few seasons, and arguably the most prestigious club in Mexican soccer history.
Las Aguilas have won a total of 12 Liga MX titles, as they surpassed Chivas Guadalajara’s total of 11 after winning the league’s most recent tournament in December under now-departed head coach Antonio Mohamed. This success came after winning the Clausura in 2013 under now-Mexican national team coach Miguel Herrera.
The team plays in the daunting Estadio Azteca, the country’s most famous stadium. It holds over 100,000 people and hosts El Tri’s biggest games, as US national team fans know all too well. Azteca has been as much of a house of horrors for visiting Liga MX teams as it has been for the USMNT over the years.
The current squad entered this year with some uncertainty. Mohamed, who led them to the Apertura 2014 title, left in December after just one year. In came Gustavo Matosas, who led Leon all the way from the Liga de Ascenso to back-to-back Liga MX titles in 2013-14. Along with him came some notable players.
El Tri regular Oribe Peralta came to the Mexico City club in the summer of 2014 but with Matosas came his old Santos Laguna teammate Carlos Darwin Quintero. Quintero should be well known to avid MLS fans thanks to some exceptional CCL performances with Santos. Matosas also brought in Dario Benedetto from Club Tijuana, who made the most of his CCL debut with America by scoring four of the team's six goals against Herediano.
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The team currently sits in sixth place in Liga MX after some rocky results. They recently lost to Ronaldinho and Queretaro 4-0 at home in a game that was played last Saturday night. They will face archrivals Chivas Guadalajara in El Clasico between their two games against the Impact.
STARS TO WATCH
Oribe Peralta: This 31-year-old striker has been tearing up Liga MX for most of the last half-decade, doing most of his damage with Santos Laguna. He won two Liga MX titles with the Torreon-based club and was named the CCL Player of the Tournament in 2012 after leading his team to the first of two straight finals. The man known as El Cepillo (The Brush) has become a regular for the national team over the last two years and he started all four games for Mexico in the World Cup, scoring against Cameroon.
Rubens Sambueza: Not one of the more well-known names on the America roster as far as MLS fans are concerned, but a familiar face for many who follow Liga MX. A veteran playmaker, Sambueza is the straw that stirs the drink for the star-laden club. After starting his career with Argentinean giants River Plate and moving on to other Liga MX clubs, Sambueza joined America before the 2012-13 season. Since then, the 31-year-old has been one of the top midfielders in the entire league. The left winger possesses one of the most cultured left foot in the region, which has allowed him to scored 16 goals and set up countless others since his arrival at the Azteca. He can also do stuff like this:
Ventura Alvarado: One to remember for USMNT fans. The Mexican-American recently received his first call-up to the US national team in March and appeared against Denmark and Switzerland over the past FIFA window. The 22-year-old defender can play both center back and right back and became a regular member of America’s starting XI during this season after initially impressing in the CCL group stages. Alvarado will be suspended for the first leg against the Impact due to yellow card accumulation, which could leave a hole along Matosas’ backline.