Commentary

Impact fans will get the last laugh at Big O

By Paul Kennedy
(@pkedit)

Let's hope Wednesday night's Montreal Impact-Club America game for Concacaf supremacy lives up to the pregame hype.

I guess I realized this was not just another match involving an MLS team when a poster at /r/MLS, Reddit's MLS page, posted a video of Club America arriving at Montreal's airport.

Now this wasn't your ordinary Concacaf welcoming party -- like the U.S. national team gets when it travels to Central America -- as most of the fans appeared to be America fans decked out in yellow. But just the fact that you had fans on hand to greet the visiting team, that's not something you see every day in MLS.

The buildup to the Impact-America second leg has produced a lot of banter, and it began as soon as the first leg ended.

Club America goalkeeper Moises Munoz -- who spent part of his youth living with his parents, migrant workers, in Northern California -- said that the Impact was lucky to escape with a 1-1 draw and didn't deserve to be champions.

"Today, there was only one team on the field, a team that tried to get the win," he added, "and that was us."

As Andrew Weibe reported for MLSSoccer.com, the Impact players took Munoz's comments in stride, their responses ranging from America was feeling the pressure (Andres Romero) to trash-talk makes it all fun (Dominic Oduro).

The Impact wasn't entirely lucky, though. In the 89th minute of the first leg, Evan Bush was issued a yellow card. Few noticed the incident at the time -- Bush went to kick the ball away after America's tying goal and an America player tried to block him -- but it was Bush's second of the tournament and disqualified him for the final.

Bush happened to have been the main reason America did not win the first leg, and on top of that the Impact had no one to replace him. (Backup Eric Kronberg is cup-tied because he played for Sporting Kansas City last year in the group phase. No. 3 keeper Maxime Crepeau has been hurt.) That's when things got a little weird.

The Impact appealed Bush's yellow card, its technical director Adam Braz saying it went "against the fair-play motto of FIFA and Concacaf." For five days, the debate over the yellow card lingered when the reality was the appeal had zero chance. The only case for a yellow card to be rescinded is in the case of mistaken identity, and there was never going to be any mistaking Bush -- the keeper -- was involved fair or unfair.

Bush blamed the yellow card on Honduran referee Hector Rodriguez -- or rather "Concacaf" -- as he said he had told Rodriguez that he was on a card and wanted to make sure he didn't get any ideas he was time-wasting. Instead, Bush said, "maybe, at that point, he realized that, ‘OK, he’s on a yellow card, any little thing that he does, I can book him.’ That’s just how it is in Concacaf.'"

If there's one reason I hope Montreal wins it's to bury the notion that every time something goes wrong an MLS team has been Concacafed.

The Montreal goalkeeping story got weirder through the weekend as it searched for a goalkeeper to fill in for Bush. It already had John Smits on loan from FC Edmonton, but reports began circulating about Montreal bringing in an emergency keeper. Nick Rimando from Real Salt Lake? Sean Johnson (whom Impact coach Frank Klopas coached) from Chicago?

The hashtag #MLS4Montreal had been circulating as MLS sought to pump up the Impact cause on social media. More to the point, the league took the unprecedented step of allowing two straight Impact league games to be postponed to clear its schedule for CCL final series.

But idea of the league approving such emergency loan move -- even if it is was not without precedent elsewhere and even if Montreal still had one spot open on its maximum 30-player Concacaf roster -- was nonsense. Instead, German Kristian Nicht, acquired Monday on an outright transfer from Indy Eleven for what could be his only appearance for the Impact, or Smits will have a chance to be the hero in goal at Olympic Stadium.

It's been easy to look down on the Impact as a heretofore bumbling franchise -- last in MLS last season and last in the current standings with a bunch of games in hand -- but Impact fans will get the last laugh. They'll be the ones -- all 61,000 of them -- who will be decked in bleu, blanc and noir at the Big O.

Sure, a lot of the pre-game hype out of Montreal was ridiculous, but I loved all of it. It showed everyone cared.
3 comments about "Impact fans will get the last laugh at Big O".
  1. VIC Aguilera, April 29, 2015 at 7:37 p.m.

    As much as I would love to see Montreal win tonight I cannot see it happening. America, for some reason is always better the second time around. Just ask Herediano of Costa Rica. Herediano beat America 3-0 on the first leg and proceeded to get blasted in the second leg 6-0. Plus playing with a goalie that is unfamiliar with them I can see a 'park the bus' tactic. I hope that I am wrong.

  2. Mike Jacome, April 29, 2015 at 10:25 p.m.

    I was very skeptic about Montreal chances after knowing that Evan Bush was suspended. Ultimately Montreal made a great achievement reaching the CCL final being the last MLS team last season and being in the same position the present season. Club America was the better team and they deservingly so are the champions. A waking call for MLS teams, stop bringing foreign players from not competitive leagues, and start bringing Argentine players like the Mexican teams do, That Dario Benedetto is a prime example of how a great player can contribute to our league.

  3. beautiful game, April 30, 2015 at 12:07 p.m.

    I'm not holding my breath for an Impact victory; anything can happen on the pitch, but in most cases the better squad wins. In this case, America wins.

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