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Montreal's Champions League adventure arrives at Estadio Azteca


Active Member
Jul 20, 2001
Dirty Money
Montreal's Champions League adventure arrives at Estadio Azteca

The Estadio Azteca. It's the most fearsome venue in North America.

Sitting at an altitude of 7,300 feet above sea level, the concrete structure can hold approximately 105,000 supporters, a capacity that will be fully appreciated on Wednesday when Club America host the Montreal Impact in the sold-out first leg of the CONCACAF Champions League final.


It's been 23 years since a professional club from Canada or the United States last rolled through the Azteca to take on America in international competition. In 1992, the San Francisco Bay Blackhawks of the American Professional Soccer League travelled to Mexico City to determine who would advance to the final round of the CONCACAF Champions' Cup.

Although America eventually advanced by winning 4-3 on aggregate, the first leg of the tie at the Azteca saw the Blackhawks put in a well-rounded defensive performance in spite of the hostile atmosphere, the altitude and the pollution that consumes the stadium.

"I was probably in the best shape of my life by far," former Blackhawks defender Mark Semioli told Major League Soccer's official website. "I was 25 years old. I was the perfect age. It felt like I couldn't even move my legs from the get go. It was as if you smoked 100 cigarettes before the game because the altitude was still strong, but the smog was incredible."

Former Blackhawks forward John Garvey also recalled the physically draining atmosphere.

"I don't know how those guys played 90 minutes, because after 20 minutes I felt like there were arrows stuck in both of my lungs," he said.

Against this backdrop, the Impact will look to produce yet another jaw-dropping result that allows them to return to Montreal with the realistic possibility of winning the CONCACAF Champions League.

Round after round, Frank Klopas' side have been labelled as underdogs.

First they came up against C.F. Pachuca in the quarter-finals, a tie that many believed would mark the end of the Impact's run in the competition given the 2-32-7 record that MLS teams hold in competitive matches played in Mexico.

And it nearly did end there.

Trailing 3-2 on aggregate and on the brink of elimination in the 94th minute, defender Calum Mallace launched a Hail Mary long ball down the pitch to rookie Cameron Porter, who was able to shake off a defender before poking the ball past 'keeper Oscar Perez.

The goal, which sent the Impact through on away goals, was arguably the biggest in the history of the club and set up a semifinal date with Costa Rican outfit Liga Deportiva Alajuelense.

Once again pinned as underdogs, the Impact once again advanced by the slimmest of margins, going through on away goals with the tie ending 4-4 on aggregate.

Supporters of Alajuelense subjected Montreal – without Porter, who suffered a torn ACL – to a terrifying environment in the second leg that was beautifully captured in a video produced by the Impact. Note how Impact players were warned to close their windows as they drove to the Estadio Alejandro Morera Mota.

Not included in the video are the monkey chants that winger Dominic Oduro was subjected to before and during the match.

So sad that in this generation some fans still make monkey noises when black players are playing the game. Shame to all #alajuelense fans

— Dominic Oduro (@Freakyfast8) April 8, 2015

But despite the narrow scorelines, the intimidating atmospheres and the displays of racism, the Impact now find themselves two matches away from being the first MLS side to win the CONCACAF Champions League.

Even though they're entering the tie as the familiar underdog, there's reason to believe they can avoid the 6-0 thrashing that Costa Rican side Herediano were forced to endure at the Azteca in the competition's other semifinal.

Not only do players such as Ignacio Piatti, who was part of San Lorenzo's Copa Libertadores triumph, have experience in the final of a continental tournament, but America are going into the tie in the midst of some struggles in Liga MX. In the past five weeks, they've fallen 3-0 to Herediano, 4-0 to Veracruz, and 4-0 to Queretaro.

"We have our tactics, and we have to follow them from beginning to end, not start doing just anything, and keep well-organised," Impact center back Laurent Ciman said. "It'll be very important against America. We can't get there and be afraid of anyone. We didn't get there by chance. We have to be confident in ourselves, and we'll see for the rest. In a football game, anything can happen."

It's incredible to think that a club who were playing in the North American Soccer League only four years ago are two matches away from the Club World Cup, but the Impact thoroughly deserve to be playing at the Azteca, where riot police were called upon on Monday to deal with the restless supporters queuing up for tickets.

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