After a 1-1 draw at Estadio Azteca last week, the Montreal Impact lost last night 2-4 in the second leg of the CONCACAF Champions League final to Club América of Liga MX. Overall, it was a great achievement for the Canadian team who have largely found themselves towards the bottom of the MLS combined table since they joined the league a few years ago.
While there was some hope last night for the Impact, one could tell by watching both legs of the final that they were the inferior team. From a simple stat perspective America out shot them 49 to 14, out possessed them nearly 65% to 35% both games (out possessing them 30 of the 36 five minute game intervals) and earned 24 corners to Montreal's 3.
It was a bit of a demolition when the dust finally settled but you can't forget the fact that they made it by beating some very good teams. Over the past couple weeks there as been a relative swell in interest over what the Impact are doing but not much on the Why and how. Timing and favorable schedule / draw can help any team and no doubt Frank Klopas is a competent manager. Montreal also has some pretty good players. So, lets look at the roster. More specifically, the starting roster last night because it looks a little difference then your "normal" MLS team.
High level: 9 of the ll just started playing in Montreal in the past year and only three players on the roster have played more than 10 games with the team (Andres Romero 62, Dilly Duka 16 and Calum Mallace 31). Combine all the starters together and you get 137 total games with Montreal (compare to Columbus Crew SC with 568).
Whether you're looking at expansion teams or carryover minutes - common thought will tell you that this spells disaster and, for the most part, it does. Well, at least it does in league play. But, how about a expansive international league that covers a massive geographical area and dozens of different countries?
Only Donny Toja and Dilly Duka from last nights game are US born players (there were no Canadian). Out from that you can only add Dom Oduro and Calum Mallace as legit "MLS" players. Outside of that this Montreal Impact team is filled with well traveled international players.
Is it possible that having a roster with well traveled players is likely excellently equipped to handle a competition like the CCL?
NOTES ON LAST NIGHT'S STARTING XI
Andrés Romero - Argentina, 25 years old; 62 MLS games with Montreal. Notes: Youth with Argentinos Juniors, bounced around - Criciúma, Náutico and finally with Montreal. Most seasoned Montreal starter as far as being with the team longest
Calum Mallace - Scotland, 24 years old; 31 games with Montreal. Notes: From Torphichen Scotland, USA high school, Marquette Golden Eagles, Chi fire development
Dilly Duka -United States, 25; 16 games with Montreal. Notes: Jersey kid of Albanian decent. Generation Adidas, lots of time in Columbus. Duka and Toja are as close as a US born player in the CCL final as MLS has.
Ignacio Piatti - Argentina, 30 years old; 9 games with Montreal. Notes: Only 9 total MLS games. Has been all over, lots of time at Gimnasia LP, Lecce (Italy). He (along with Duka) was a big reason why they were competitive in the final (and up to, especially in the semifinals against Alajuelense.
Dominic Oduro - Ghana, 29 years old; 4 games with Montreal, Notes: From Accra, Ghana, college in USA, one of the most traveled MLS players in league history - 7 teams.
Donny Toia - United States, 22 years old; 4 Games with Montreal. Notes: Tucson Soccer Academy product. RSL, Chivas, Montreal.
Marco Donadel - Italy, 32 years old, 1 game with Montreal. Notes: Long time Italian player, Fiorentina mostly (184), first yr with MTL
Nigel Reo-Coker - England, 30 years old, 4 games with Montreal. Notes: Longtime EPL player, started at Wimbledon (youth), Aston Vila, West Ham 222 games, in MLS 3 yrs, just joined MTL
Bakary Soumaré - Mali, 29 years old; 3 Games with Montreal. Notes: Chicago, Philly, US Boulogne, Karlsruther. From NYC but spent time in France
Laurent Ciman - Belgium, 29 years old, 3 games with Montreal. Notes: Product of Charleroi in Belgium, sometimes NT player (9 apps), 152 games with Standard Liège, 1st year in MTL
Kristian Nicht - German, 33 years old; 0 games with Montreal. Notes: Germany mostly 2002-2011, found way to Rocheter Rhinos (GK of the year) and Indy 11's first signing.
Dilly Duka finished the 2014-15 CCL cycle with over 700 minutes played in ten games. Both he and Dominic Oduro were critical to the success of the team in the knockout stages this year. If you look at the 2015 standings and see the Impact at the bottom it's easy to write them off as a last place team but the fact is that this year's team has a lot different look than last. It's a product of MLS schedule and roster rules. The team playing America last night is essentially a blank slate. The other fact is that they've only played four games and almost all there energy has been expended in this tournament.
Final note here is a big congrats and well done to Duka and Oduro. Both of them spending over two years here in Columbus. Really great seeing them play in a handful a games as intense and meaningful as these late knockout CCL games were. Not many in MLS have experienced it.
This version of regional champions league has only been around since 2008. Before that it was called the "Champions' Cup," a trophy MLS teams have won (DC United in 1998 and LA Galaxy in 2000). That said; Mexican teams have been largely dominate and will continue to be for the foreseeable future in whatever form the competition takes. What's going to change is the intensity around it in North America with the NASL maturing and setting their sights on the competition.