After nine long months, the Concacaf Champions League is finally set to resume and conclude.
For four MLS teams, a chance at unprecedented glory remains.
The 2020 Concacaf Champions League picks up again this week after a hiatus of nine months due to the COVID-19 pandemic that forced a stoppage in play. The action will continue in the quarterfinals stage beginning on Tuesday, though there is a twist to the format.
Given the ongoing issues with the coronavirus, all remaining matches will take place at Exploria Stadium in Orlando, Florida rather than in the usual home-and-away setup. Three of the quarterfinal series will have their second legs held there with the aggregate score from the first match still in play, while the other will just be a one-off game.
The remaining rounds will also be decided via single matches, which just might help open the door for one of Atlanta United, LAFC, New York City FC, and the Montreal Impact to make history by becoming the first MLS team to claim the continental championship.
Here is a closer look at the quarterfinal matches:
Montreal Impact vs. Olimpia
The match that gets things back underway takes place on Tuesday night, with the Montreal Impact looking to overturn a 2-1 deficit vs. Honduran side Olimpia. The Impact lost by the scoreline at home back in March, so they need a two-goal victory in Central Florida to advance to the semifinals.
Making matters even more difficult for the Impact is that they have not played a game in nearly a month, last taking the field in a playoff defeat to the New England Revolution on Nov. 20. How Thierry Henry’s men do with the rust that has accumulated vs. an Olimpia side that just played three days ago could very well prove decisive here.
Tigres UANL vs. New York City FC
Another MLS team aiming to turn things around in the quarterfinals is New York City FC, which fell at home to Liga MX powerhouse Tigres UANL in March by a 1-0 mark thanks to a last-gasp goal. As such, NYCFC needs a victory in this tilt in order to advance.
It will not be easy, though. Not only does Tigres boast the likes of lethal striker Andre-Pierre Gignac and Julian Quiñones, but NYCFC will also be without starting goalkeeper Sean Johnson because of a positive COVID-19 test. What’s more, NYCFC will also be without midfield ace Alexander Ring after he underwent surgery on his knee. Clearly, the challenge is a significant one.
Atlanta United vs. Club America
If there is one outfit that has a massive hole to climb out of in its second leg, it is Atlanta United. The Five Stripes suffered a 3-0 road defeat against Club America nine months ago, and has to find a way to overturn that with a squad that still does not have a permanent head coach following the July firing of Frank de Boer.
Ezequiel Barco and relatively new signing Marcelino Moreno will be available for the Wednesday showdown, and both Designated Players will likely need to have big games if Atlanta United is to pull off this unenviable task vs. one of Mexico’s greats. Especially since the MLS side has not played since Nov. 8.
LAFC vs. Cruz Azul
No away goals to overcome. No first leg result to overturn. No real disadvantage.
It is all square between LAFC and Cruz Azul after they had their first leg in March canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic. Now, they will meet on Wednesday in a win-or-go-home meeting that is sure to be intense given what is at stake.
LAFC has not played since Nov. 24, but will have dynamic duo Carlos Vela and Diego Rossi leading the front line against a Mexican team that is coming off a major emotional blow. Cruz Azul crashed out of the Liga MX playoffs by blowing a 4-0 aggregate lead to Pumas UNAM in the semifinals a little over a week ago, and the aftermath of that devastating elimination could play into LAFC’s favor in this one-off affair.