MONTREAL – For the Montreal Impact, Wednesday may have felt like the end, but it's really just the beginning.
Head coach Frank Klopas and the Impact will have to rebound quickly from Wednesday's loss to Club América in the CONCACAF Champions League final, returning to the field for their next match next Wednesday. Fittingly, that game will be the starting point of another road to the CCL final: Toronto FC will be the visitors at Stade Saputo in the first leg of the semifinal of the Amway Canadian Championship, the winner of which will qualify for the 2016-17 Champions League.
The following weekend, it’s back to league action for one heck of a marathon.
The rescheduling of three MLS games helped propel the Impact to their second-place finish in the CCL, but it also means that they have only played four league games, three or four less than most of their MLS rivals.
“There’s a lot of room to make because we do have high expectations and goals for the season,” Klopas told reporters after Wednesday’s 4-2 home defeat. “Now, it’s important that, really quickly, we try to put this behind us and learn from it.”
The focus on CCL is reflected in the MLS table. With only two points from their four games, the Impact sit at the bottom of the Supporters’ Shield Standings.
True, they have only played one home game – which they drew – but the team is not using that an excuse.
“We have to wake up in the league because we’re not well,” center back Laurent Ciman said. “This tournament is over. It's done. We have to move on. We have to pick our heads back up for the Cup, and especially for the league.”
With three straight home games coming up in MLS action, the opportunity is there for Montreal to make up lost ground. Not only will they return to their actual home, Stade Saputo, after Wednesday’s match at a sold-out Olympic Stadium, but they have just captured the imagination of the Montreal sports scene with their CCL run.
However, Klopas knows that drawing crowds is an ongoing effort.
“I think [the fan support] will carry on, but it’s also important that we get results,” Klopas said. “The fans are here. The people are here. As much as it hurts, we’ll put this behind us and focus on our season because we have to make up a lot of games.”
And should they succeed, Montreal can count on newly acquired knockout game experience.
“I think we definitely showed in moments that we are a playoff team,” midfielder Dilly Duka said. “I think if we make the playoffs we’ll make a pretty good run.”