MLS or CCL? Impact think dealing with both is feasible
On February 25, 2009, Montreal beat Santos Laguna 2-0 in front of 55,571 fans at the Olympic Stadium. Despite Santos eventually beating them 5-4 on aggregate to reach the 2008-09 CONCACAF Champions League semi-finals, Impact supporters still cherish that thrilling night the likes of which they’d never seen before.
Winning the 2013 Amway Canadian Championship means that a similar experience is now a possibility. While for the fans, it’s about feeling that great once again, most Impact players are like the fans in 2009: they’ve never seen this before, and they insist that they want to make the quarterfinals to know what it’s like.
“For many of us, the CONCACAF Champions League is a new experience, even for those who played in Europe in the Champions League,” Matteo Ferrari told MLSsoccer.com last week. “It’s something else. We would like to do a great job in both competitions. If you ask me to choose, I would say both. We are a team that doesn’t have quality only in the starting XI.”
Within the squad, Collen Warner knows as much. His 2010-11 Real Salt Lake team is proof that a CCL run is compatible with MLS commitments: from match day 1 to the second leg of their Final, RSL picked up 29 out of a possible 39 regular season points, though they did drop their Conference Semifinal 3-2 on aggregate against FC Dallas.
“I felt like, at Salt Lake, when we were in the tournament, they really put a lot of pressure on us to do well,” Warner told MLSsoccer.com. “I guess it was the way the team was made up at the time, which I think will be similar here, with the make-up of the team, the age of the players and so forth. I think Joey [Saputo, club president] is really keen on us being successful.”
Yet 2009 also brought further emotions: on October 17, the Impact lifted their third league title after a 6-3 aggregate win over the Vancouver Whitecaps in the USL First Division final. And the club is also longing to relive the emotions from that day.
“The goal we established at the start of the season was the playoffs,” head coach Marco Schällibaum told reporters. “But we also wanted the Cup, and we got it. That means we’ll do everything to get good results in the Champions League. We have to rotate the squad, like we’ve done so far in a very positive way: everyone agreed, everyone played well, and we’ll adopt the same approach. But the priority remains the League.”