I’m finally feeling well enough to write about the events of last night. From the backer of the game in North America it was just too painful to write about after the event.
The Montreal Impact did everything right early. Absorbing pressure, keeping their shape at the back, hitting Santos on the counter. Two goals could have been three or four honestly, but the Impact looked through to the semifinals.
The second half began and Santos was playing with urgency spurred on by a ruckus crowd. While the Impact looked to be coming apart in the first 15 minutes of the second half, I think one substitution in particular really opened the door for the epic collapse.
I know John Limniatis was concerned about the Impact’s shape at the back and wanted to make a change. But pulling Robert Brown off and tucking Eduardo Sebrango in the midfield prevented the outlet needed for Montreal to try and hold possession when the ball was cleared.
Much like the collapse of the Houston Dynamo two years ago in Estadio Hidalgo against Pachuca, this had the feel off a Greek tragedy. Much like the Dynamo that night, who also came in with a two goal lead and lost 5-4 on aggregate, Montreal played well. In that match Houston made similarly clumsy and silly mistakes at the back to open the door for Pachuca.
I have maintained for years that it is difficult to play at altitude especially when you are in pre season conditioning, but that still isn’t an excuse. After looking organized and keeping a nice shape, the Impact collapsed late.
Every time we think a breakthrough is coming on Mexican soil for one of our teams something epic, tragic and downright improbable happens.
A tough night, but further proof that Mexican clubs and Mexican Football continues to be the sole dominant force in CONCACAF. While the US and Costa Rican National Teams can dispute that claim, the US doesn’t have a comparable domestic league by any standard to Mexico’s and Costa Rica has two very good teams that could compete in Mexico, but then a bunch of sides that probably wouldn’t fare well in Mexico’s second division.
So here we are again. The semifinals of this new event have simply confirmed what the predecessor of this event told us just about every year. Mexican football reigns supreme in CONCACAF. Thank goodness for the Puerto Rico Islanders, a USL-1 side whose grit and determination gives us something to feel good about.
But now that the Islanders will be facing the big boys from Mexico, little hope remains that this first CONCACAF Champions League will be the breakthrough for the American player (The Islanders while in a US Commonwealth and technically representing Puerto Rico is made up largely of former MLS players including many Americans or Caribbean islanders who played college soccer in the US) to prove they can best their Mexican counterparts.