[CONCACAF CHAMPIONS LEAGUE]Four years after he left the Montreal Impact, Eduardo Sebrango paid back the team that brought him back.
Sebrango scored both goals in front of a team-record crowd at Olympic Stadium as the Impact beat Santos Laguna of Mexico, 2-0, in the first leg of their Concacaf Champions' League quarterfinal series. Santos will host the second leg next Thursday in Torreon, Mexico.
Montreal, which normally plays its home games at the 13,000-seat Stade Saputo, brought this match indoors to the Olympic Stadium. A noisy crowd of 55,571 - largest in team history - that was sheltered from sub-freezing temperatures outside kept up a constant din and the tired Mexicans never recovered after going down a goal in the fifth minute when Roberto Brown slipped past several defenders and played a short ball that Sebrango rammed into the net.
Sebrango, a native of Cuba who scored 36 goals in 83 games for Montreal before moving to Vancouver in 2005, added a second goal in the 77th minute against a statuesque Santos defense. Brown headed on Nevio Pizzolito's long ball, and when defender Johnnie Garcia let it bounce over him, Sebrango outjumped the defender and goalie Oswaldo Sanchezto nod it into the net.
"I was excited and confident coming into this match," said Sebrango, 35. "Brown and I really clicked together and this was a very important game for the team. For the upcoming game, we need to be organized defensively and go along as a team."
Neither team showed much sharpness. Santos was playing its fourth game in 11 days and its defenders reacted sluggishly while conceding both goals.
Montreal is still a month away from starting its regular season, though it played nine lower-division and semipro clubs on a tour of Italy, winning seven and tying two. Once it had the lead, the Impact tightened up its defensive efforts, and while Santos outshot Montreal, 6-3 in the first half, it seldom got clear shots from close range.
Christian Benitez had several chances for Santos, but usually misfired. Those shots that Santos did put on frame were handled by keeper Matt Jordan, who posted his fifth shutout of the competition and recorded eight saves.
Only two other soccer games at Olympic Stadium have drawn larger crowds. The 1976 Summer Olympics final drew 71,617 fans and a 1981 NASL playoff game between the Montreal Manic and Chicago Sting attracted 58,000.
"The crowd was great and helped us get through," said Coach John Limniatis. "This being said, the toughest stretch is yet to come. This was our first competitive game under pressure and it was almost perfect. We managed to do what we wanted to do against them."
The winner of the Santos-Montreal series will play either Houston (MLS) or Mexican club Atlante, which tied, 1-1, in Houston on Tuesday in the first leg.
And Wednesday's other quarterfinal, Jaime Lozano's free kick game Cruz Azul a 1-0 win over UNAM Pumas 1-0. The winner of the series faces the victor of the Puerto Rico Islanders-Honduras Marathon series, whose first leg is Thursday in Puerto Rico.