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CONCACAF Champions League Preview: Impact attempt to capitalize at home, DCU in need of big comeback

Ignacio Piatti Montreal Impact 29

Photo by Eric Bolte/USA Today Sports


The Montreal Impact may have let a two-goal lead slip away in Mexico, but they still have a chance to close things out at home and don’t even need a win to advance.

The Impact are set to host Pachuca in the second leg of their CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals series on Tuesday, and are in good position to move on in the tournament. No, playing at home does not guarantee anything, but Montreal will move into the semifinals with a win or a 1-1 draw following last week’s entertaining and chippy 2-2 draw.

There is a strong local buzz around the game at Olympic Stadium and more than 30,000 fans are expected to attend, which should give the Impact a good home field advantage. While that will certainly help, it is the Impact’s defense that could determine the club’s fate in the competition. The back line struggled to cope with Pachuca’s increased pressure after Montreal jumped out to a 2-0 lead, and will need to do a better job of containing what will surely be an urgent attack from the Liga MX side.

On the offensive side, Frank Klopas’ side will likely look to hit on the counter again. The Impact did well with that tactic in the opening leg, as Dilly Duka and Justin Mapp smartly exploited the space in front of them and created some good looks on goal. More of the same from them would have Montreal in prime position to advance, especially if Pachuca grows desperate and begins to throw numbers forward.

For the other MLS team still in the Champions League, things are nowhere near as rosy. D.C. United is returning home to RFK Stadium for the second leg of its quarterfinals series against Costa Rican outfit Alajuelense on Wednesday, but needs to overturn a 5-2 deficit to avoid elimination. That is not impossible, of course, but will require a drastically-improved performance from Ben Olsen’s group.

D.C. United was plagued by a number of self-inflicted mistakes in the first leg, especially on the defensive side, and must avoid a repeat of that in order to have any shot at pulling off the necessary three-goal win.

D.C. will also need a strong outing in goal to avoid falling further behind on aggregate, which they did not get from reserve goalkeeper Andrew Dykstra in the first leg. Regular starter Bill Hamid is expected to be back in uniform, but how he and his injured back respond to a lack of preseason action will be something to keep an eye on.

Still, it is D.C. United’s attack that will have to step up the most. A more offensive-minded lineup would seem to be in the cards for Olsen, which means that Fabian Espindola could be paired with Jairo Arrieta up top in order to search for the three goals that it will take to keep D.C. alive.

The tournament’s other two quarterfinals second legs will also be played this week. Mexican heavyweight Club America welcomes Costa Rica’s Saprissa to the Estadio Azteca on Wednesday, and is doing so with a 3-0 lead. All the pressure is on Saprissa going into this one, which means the match should be pretty wide open from the get go.

Fellow Costa Rican side Herediano is in a much better position going into its Thursday clash with Olympia of Honduras. The two teams are locked in a 1-1 stalemate after the opening leg, and Herediano will be looking to tap into its homefield advantage to secure advancement.


How do you see the Impact faring in the second leg vs. Pachuca? Think D.C. United can pull of the comeback? Who will advance from the other two quarterfinals series?

Share your thoughts below.


  1. To my understanding, the players competing in the CCL will continue their games for as long as they remain in the tournament. That agreement was made prior to negotiations just in case. As for the Open Cup, that I don’t know…

    • Good question…. I would say there’s little doubt that the teams (if there are any left) would continue playing in CCL. After all, they have already been playing games without a CBA in place (the deal expired on Jan 31 and CCL games have been played since).

      To expose other teams in the region to the collateral damage of the MLS labor issue would be in nobody’s interest…. CCL isn’t lucrative enough for players to use non-participation as leverage against the owners– they would just end up looking petty and cause damage to the brand of both the league and the players union.

      MTL/DCU would likely make a “good faith” exception and keep going on that front.

    • I was actually wondering if that was what was holding up the strike. Finish the second legs.

      Might not wait for the DC game now after their pasting. LOL.

  2. Didn’t you recently have a post that MLS is doing great in the champions league after Montreal’s 2-2 draw and pointed out that Montreal finished at or near the bottom of the table in the previous season as an indication of how strong MLS is against other concacaf federations? And shortly thereafter DCU, one of the best MLS teams last season, allowed 5 goals in one game. That’s the problem with drawing sweeping conclusions from a single game . . . . Just saying.

    • Pachuca is 13th in Liga MX right now and Montreal got many good signings, you can also argue that Pachuca’s youth went against them, they are a team of mostly 20 year olds and they played against a bunch of veterans, sometimes those things matter. it will be all meaningless if they don’t get the result today or if the final is Liga MX vs Costa Rica.

    • Yes I did.

      And Montreal did play very well against a MX team in Mexico. Looked like the better team even.

      And like you and I both said, DC stunk. Embarrassing how badly they played.

      • That’s a stretch.

        Montreal did well by keeping compact and taking advantage of Pachuca pushing up their lines but they never dictated the tempo of the game nor would I say they looked like the better team. All of which is pointless since Montreal came away with a point and is in pole position to advance.

  3. Not sure how DC played that badly…I guess they have the excuse of preseason. Shame because they could have been set up to guarentee a MLS team in the final.

    Montreal really is the prototype of the next wave of MLS. Drawing 30k for a CCL game is something not even Seattle is doing.

    Lastly, I love that it isn’t just all Mexico-US. A strong CONCACAF is in all of our interests, plus it is fun to watch.

    • not that the defense was great otherwise, but hamid was injured, and the backup keeper, dykstra, was directly responsible for at least two (arguably 3) of the 5 goals.

      really hoping hamid is fully healthy when he returns. if not, dc won’t make the playoffs.

    • It being pre season is one reason DC United got stomped, but there are others. The crowd there was unreal, 20,000+ strong and incredibly loud. Thousands in a supporters section that were never quiet, and orchestrated moments during the match that involved the entire crowd. The turf pitch was pretty ridiculous, a ping pong table might have been more conducive to a soccer match. And then there was LDA’s team speed. Incredibly fast and they were running from the opening kick, coming in waves, I don’t think DC was ready for that at all. These aren’t excuses, they should have prepared for all these things, just saying they were at a disadvantage in just about every way.

      For the return leg, let’s see how LDA does in a nice, cold, DC rain that will fall all day, possible turning to snow by the second half.

      • “These aren’t excuses, they should have prepared for all these things…”

        very important statement. no excuses for losing, when both teams played fairly.

        i maintain that the crucial reason mls teams don’t do well in the champions league is the lack of depth. neither mls or mexican teams take the champions league seriously (for the most part), but the mexican teams have the quality depth to make up for it. mls doesn’t, and it’s no one’s fault but mls.

      • DC United took the group stage seriously, they won every match and entered the knockout stage as the number one seed.

        Three of those wins came in a 13 game stretch in August and September in which they also piled up enough points to take first place in the conference they eventually won, that seems like a lot of depth to me.

        It would have been nice if every member of the team managed to stay in game shape during the off season, but its a tough ask, don’t you think?

      • No ones fault but MLS ?….. how about the fans that don’t show up.
        DC was playing in a stadium that holds how many fans ?

        And how many show up ?

        Too much whining and not enough soccer watching.

      • i have no idea what you’re on about, unless this is just your typical knee-jerk reaction to any implication that mls is not perfect.

        more fans showing up to a dc united game does not necessarily increase mls’s salary cap, which is what it would take for mls teams to have more quality in depth. the only way it might have some slight indirect effect is if dc’s attendance numbers were part of a grand increase in all mls teams’ attendance, *and* the owners decided that meant that they should use the increase in revenue to maintain higher salaries across the board.

        even if all that were to happen, it wouldn’t have any effect on my argument, which was talking about how things *have been*, not what they *could be*.

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