Chasing the Champions League

Impact must get through TFC to qualify for the continental tournament

In many ways, goalkeeper Evan Bush represents everything about the Impact in MLS. The American ‘keeper is the only active player that was with the club in the second division before it joined Major League Soccer in 2012, and he’s now been with the club for almost a decade.

Bush can add another distinction to his resume with the Montreal club: he’s the only active player on the team to have lifted the Voyageurs Cup, back in 2014, the last time the Impact won the Canadian Championship.

“In 2014, we were going through some really bad moments at that point,” said goalkeeper Evan Bush. “We were able to win the Canadian Championship, which got the ball rolling for our 2015 season, in which we made it to the Concacaf Champions League final and had a good regular season. It’s always important to see the bigger picture in these types of moments and in what we’re trying to achieve.”

A win in the final showdown of the domestic tournament, against a bitter rival, could have the same effect for the Impact this year. With three games left in the regular season, the Impact is eighth in the Eastern Conference, one spot below the playoff line with a realistic opportunity of qualifying for the fall tournament.

But it’ll need to adjust its recent form, during which the team has lost four of its last five games in league play, to make that happen.

“This final is a breath of fresh air, and an opportunity for us to turn the page and focus on something that’s important to us, important to the club, and important to the fans,” added Bush. “In the past, it’s sparked us towards bigger and better things when we’re able to use these moments as catalysts.”

History in the Champions League

But the Impact’s biggest motivator heading into Wednesday’s matchup can be found in its own backyard: its history. A win against Toronto FC wouldn’t only allow Wilmer Cabrera’s men to put their hands on a 10th Voyageurs Cup, it also earns them a berth in the 2020 Concacaf Champions League, a tournament in which the Impact has a rich history.

“The first thing I ever heard about the Montreal Impact, well before I was here, was the Santos Laguna series and Eddie Sebrango’s heroics,” explained Bush. “I remember what it meant to the club, the city, and the fans up here. I remember the club being in the second division at the time and hearing the attendance numbers the team was getting at the Olympic Stadium. The city really rallied around the team at that moment.”

Little did he know that he would be one of the most important players in the club’s next Champions League run, in 2015, that saw Montreal take on Mexican giants Club America in the Concacaf Champions League final, with the second leg taking place at the Olympic Stadium.

“It’s probably the best memories I have on a soccer field,” said Bush. “I’m sure a lot of the fans in attendance or watching at home would say the same thing. Moments like the goal against Pachuca, getting through Alajuelense, getting to a Champions League final, and hosting the second leg at home. Those are, in many ways, probably once in a lifetime opportunities. The only way to get back to that level is to focus on what we have in front of us. Right now, that’s a Canadian Championship final against Toronto.”

The first leg is set for Wednesday, September 18, at Stade Saputo, and you can purchase tickets by visiting impactmontreal.com. The second leg will take place the following Wednesday, September 25, at BMO Field, where the Voyageurs Cup will be presented to the victor.