ALAJUELA, Costa Rica – History is made yet again for the Impact in what was a nasty, nail-biting decisive matchup. The Montreal Impact, falling 4-2 to Alajuelense in Costa Rica, qualified for the Champions League finals as it managed two all-important away goals, taking the series on 4-4 aggregate. As such, the Bleu-blanc-noir becomes the first Canadian side ever to make the finals and just the second club in MLS history.
“We knew we were coming to a difficult place to play with a tough team,” said Impact head coach Frank Klopas. “They have a tremendous push with the quality of players they have and their fans. We scored an away goal, which was very important. The quick goal in the second half brought them back into the game. It was a great semifinal and a great moment for our club, the city of Montreal and Major League Soccer.”
“The score line isn’t important for me,” explained Bakary Soumare. “It’s the result that counts. We were here to get to the next round and we did what we needed to do that. Their last goal came as they pushed everyone forward, trying desperately to score in the final moments. We are very happy with what we’ve been able to accomplish and now our goal is to win the cup.”
As expected, IMFC would have to put in a gutsy performance in a game where it faced a number of challenges. Alajuelense, fighting for their lives in Champions League following a 2-0 loss at Olympic Stadium, would come out with bite and in full force in front of a very hostile crowd.
However, the Impact held most of the possession early in the game and LDA committed a number of reckless and dangerous fouls.
The Impact remained composed; defending against LDA’s multiple attempts to penetrate the box, including a few free-kicks from just outside the penalty area - one forcing goalkeeper Evan Bush into a huge stop in the 30th minute, diving to his right as the ball curled around the wall.
It took a pretty play down the right flank to find the game’s first goal in the 42nd minute. Victor Cabrera used a give-and-go to play Dominic Oduro in behind his defender. The Ghanaian played a perfect low cross towards the penalty spot where Jack McInerney came charging in, placing his low shot past the keeper.
“You come into an environment like this, you know it’s going to be tough,” added Jack McInerney. “We have such good attacking players on this team that we can rely on our defence and get forward when we need to. That’s what we did tonight and it worked.”
Not surprisingly, LDA came out hard in the second half and used a free-kick to find the equalizer - a bullet that went off the bar and in by Pablo Gabas in the 47th minute.
Alajuelense continued to pressure the Impact and despite a number of solid defensive plays, the road team conceded a second goal to Gabas when he stretched out his leg to convert a corner kick from in close in the 60th minute.
IMFC fought off the onslaught by the home side, with a couple of second half substitutes making their presences felt in the 72nd minute. Oduro found Patrice Bernier in the box with a low cross. The IMFC captain played a short lateral ball to Andres Romero who had time to wait for defenders to make their charge before calmly taking a couple of touches around the keeper, firing it inside the right post to tie things up at two.
Alajuelense, needing to score multiple goals, continued to push and found a third goal from in close when Allen Guevara tapped in a cross in the 79th minute.
Nervous moments in the game’s final seconds as Alajuelense’s Jonathan McDonald hammered a last gasp blast past Bush, with the entire team pushing forward, but it proved to be too little, too late as the referee blew his whistle seconds later.
The finals of the Champions League is set for April 22 and 29, with the Impact hosting the second and decisive matchup for the title at Olympic Stadium, against the winners of the other semifinal between Mexican club America and Costa Rica’s Herediano, in Mexico on Wednesday night (0-3 aggregate).
Meanwhile, the Impact will head to Houston tomorrow to prepare for Saturday’s MLS regular season game at BBVA Compass Stadium against the Dynamo at 8:30pm ET (TVA Sports, TSN Radio 690).
MTL: GK – Evan Bush; D – Dony Toia, Laurent Ciman, Bakary Soumare, Victor Cabrera; M – Calum Mallace, Nigel Reo-Coker; Dilly Duka (Andrés Romero 61’), Ignacio Piatti, Dominic Oduro (Maxim Tissot 82’); F – Jack McInerney (Patrice Bernier 70’)
Subs not used: GK-John Smits; D-Hassoun Camara, Wandrille Lefèvre; F-Anthony Jackson-Hamel
LDA: GK – Dexter Lewis; D-Johnny Acosta, Kenner Gutierrez, Porfirio Lopez; M-Ariel Rodriguez (Allen Guevara 68’), Diego Calvo (Jose Ortiz 59’), Johan Venegas, Pablo Gabas, Ronald Matarrita; F-Armando Alonso (Alvaro Sanchez 81’), Jonathan McDonald
Subs not used: Alfonso Quesada, Elias Palma, Jose Salvatierra, Osvaldo Rodriguez
MTL – McInerney (Oduro, Piatti) 42’
LDA – Gabas 47’
LDA – Gabas (Ortiz, Rodriguez) 60’
MTL – Romero (Bernier, Oduro) 72’
LDA – Guevara (Alonso) 79’
LDA – McDonald (Venegas) 90+3’
LDA – McDonald 19’
MTL – Bush 33’
MTL – Oduro 43’
MTL – McInerney 70’
LDA – Gabas 70’