The Impact will see a familiar face in the Champions League round of 16
The Montreal Impact’s first destination of the 2020 season is now known. The Montreal squad will fly to San José, Costa Rica’s capital, to face Deportivo Saprissa in the Concacaf Champions League round of 16. The Central American country’s most titled club will take part in the Champions League for the ninth time, thanks to their win in the 2019 Concacaf League, the Champions League preliminary tournament. And arguably, their best player is none other than Johan Venegas, an Impact alumnus.
“Life could have been easier for us, but this draw is not bad because everyone will need to be completely focused for us to reach the next round,” said Impact sporting director Olivier Renard. “There is no clear favourite between these two teams. We know Saprissa is one of the two big clubs in the Costa Rican league. We face a structured club, even when it comes to their stadium and their facilities. We’ll have to be ready to face a team that can be dangerous.”
Dangerous, that’s right. Saprissa has scored 50 goals in 22 games in the 2019-20 opening tournament, the Apertura. That’s the best attack in Liga FPD. Acting as a spearhead, Venegas scored 10 league goals, adding seven in Concacaf League play. Besides him, we find Christian Bolaños, who plied his trade for two years with the Vancouver Whitecaps FC and who’s an experienced Costa Rican international, and Manfred Ugalde, the 17-year-old sensation who was named the Concacaf League Young Player of the tournament.
Saprissa will host the first leg at Estadio Ricardo Saprissa Ayma, nicknamed La Cueva del Monstruo or The Monster’s Cave in English. The pitch is made of natural grass and the stands can accommodate up to 23,112 people.
For Montreal, it will be a second trip in history for a competitive game in Costa Rica, the first one having taken place in 2015, in the Champions League semifinals against Alajuelense – with whom Venegas was playing at the time, coincidentally –, a game the Impact lost 4-2, but still went through to the final thanks to these two away goals.
Don’t miss any of the action and start the 2020 season with us by getting a 2020 season membership or by getting our Holiday 3-game pack, which comprises our first Champions League game, our first MLS game of the season and our first MLS game at Stade Saputo.