In this their final game in the group stage of the CONCACAF Champions League the Montreal Impact were going into it with an almost impossible hill to climb. Because they had lost their away games against Guatemalan side CD Heredia and Seattle Sounders they were in the position of having to win this final home game by a score of 6-0. A huge amount of goals in soccer against any side though not impossible as they demonstrated earlier in the season by defeating Toronto FC 6-0.
The fact that their heroes were on the brink of elimination did not deter the Ultras and the other fans who attended the game. They were vocal in their support for the team in royal blue and black as well as in disapproval of the referee (more about that later). It also did not seem to turn them off one iota that the Impact was going with only 2 regulars in their starting 11. Marco Schallibaum continued to rest his veterans in the CONCACAF competition and started a very young team. Only defender Hassoun Camara and midfielder Felipe made the start from the team’s usual starting side.
Right from the beginning you could tell that the team was going to go for goals. Schallibaum used an attacking minded 4-4-2 formation and the team went forward full throttle. Montreal opened the scoring in the 4th minute when striker Daniele Paponi scored his first goal in a long while. The goal was created when a Felipe strike from inside the box was blocked and the ball fell near Paponi. He controlled it nicely and then executed a high difficulty side volley rifling the ball past CD Heredia keeper, Jose Calderon. A great start and exactly the kind of confidence boost that the young side needed.
The chances continued to be almost exclusively on the Impact’s side. They pushed forward and created a lot of high calibre scoring opportunities. Unfortunately, maybe due to their youth or maybe even due to some rust due to lack of play, they could not add to their lead before the half time whistle. Both Paponi and Andrew Wenger, who was playing a supporting role right behind the striker, had a couple of good chances each. Paponi’s skill was causing trouble for the CD Heredia defense while Wenger was using his speed and strength to get behind them. Heredia keeper Calderon had to come out and make a couple of big saves.
Like in the 1st half the Impact struck early in the 2nd half. Wenger’s hard work was finally rewarded with a goal. This time it was outside defender Maxim Tissot who recognized Wenger making a clever run and slotted the ball through perfectly onto his path between two defenders. Wenger held them off as he pushed the ball past a diving Calderon. It was now 2-0. Could the team score 4 more goals in the remaining 34 minutes?
The answer is no, but it was not due to lack of effort. The younger members of the Impact ran themselves into the ground. By the end of the game you could see that they were spent. Schallibaum made some substitutions towards the end of the game bringing on Justin Mapp, Blake Smith and Marco Di Vaio to bring fresher legs into the mix. It did not result in anything on the scoreboard, but there were more glorious chances. Mapp hit the post as did Di Vaio and Di Vaio’s brilliant header was stopped by a diving Calderon.
Though I don’t often mention the quality of the refereeing it has to be stated that it was anything but impressive in this game. The whistle was pretty much put away in his pocket and obvious fouls were not called. It must have been frustrating for the players though for the most part they kept their cool. Most of the time it just seemed like they were stunned when things were either called or not called.
It is not often that a win ends up being a loss, but such was the case on a lovely night to play soccer. The Impact came out with a 2-0 win and despite the victory they were eliminated from the CONCACAF Champions League. This was the team’s first exposure to taking part in this competition and they gained a lot from the experience. First of all, Coach Schallibaum had to learn how to juggle his lineup with the added games making things more hectic. Second, it gave experience to younger players in hotly contested matches. Third, is that some playing time was allotted to the excellent Evan Bush. This was his 2nd shutout in 4 Champions League games.
Montreal’s next game is Saturday night on the road against the Chicago Fire for an MLS regular season tilt. I’m sure we’ll see a more traditional starting 11 for this important contest.
-On-Field Officials: Referee – Courtney Campbell
Linesmen – Garnet Page and Kedlee Powell
-Goals: 1st Half:
4th minute: Montreal – Daniele Paponi
54th minute: Montreal – Andrew Wenger assisted by Maxim Tissot
-Shots on Goal: Montreal – 7
FC Heredia – 5
-Corners: Montreal – 10
FC Heredia – 4
-Man of the Match: Andrew Wenger
-Final Score: Montreal – 2
FC Heredia – 0