The holy grail of a Concacaf Champions League title remains elusive for Major League Soccer clubs, but that apex was nearly reached on this day – April 29 – during the 2015 season.
The Montreal Impact carved out a nail-biting path through the tournament, using the away goals rule to advance past Pachuca in the quarterfinals and Alajuelense in the semifinals. That set the stage for a vaunted matchup against Club America, a Liga MX side that’s won the continental tournament a record seven times.
The lofty task started brightly, with a 1-1 draw at the Estadio Azteca in the first leg. Longtime maestro Ignacio Piatti bagged Montreal a precious away goal in the 16th minute, only for Oribe Peralta to pull even in the 89th minute. It was a solid result, all things considered, and they’d return a week later at the Olympic Stadium, 90 minutes removed from winning the first CCL title in MLS history.
Anticipation swelled even further when the second leg began, as Andres Romero scored in the eighth minute for a 1-0 lead and 2-1 aggregate advantage. But then Club America, with all of their star power, flipped into another gear come the second half. Dario Benedetto scored a hat trick and Peralta tallied within a 31-minute span, turning a herculean effort turned into disappointment during the 4-2 loss. Jack McInerney scored a late insurance goal for Montreal, though it wasn’t enough to overcome the 5-3 aggregate loss.
And that was that: The Impact’s improbable run through the 2015 CCL reached the precipice, only to fall heartbreakingly short after twice leading in the two-legged final. That crowning achievement and a berth in the FIFA Club World Cup remains narrowly out of grasp, though Montreal’s path showed how close MLS was and that the Liga MX gap was closing. With more spending and talent than ever before, perhaps MLS will soon go that extra step.