Por: Arch Bell
For just the third time in CONCACAF history, and the second in the brief time that the CONCACAF Champions League has been in existence, a team from Major League Soccer eliminated a Liga MX side in a two-legged knockout round series with the Montreal Impact advancing past Pachuca with a 1-1 draw on Tuesday night and a 3-3 on aggregate.
Due to Montreal’s two away goals in Hidalgo last week, the Canadians are through to the semifinals. Of more significance is the fact that for the first time since 2011, the CCL will not be an all-Mexican final. Montreal awaits the winner of the DC United-Alajuelense quarterfinal series, with the Costa Ricans holding a hefty 5-2 advantage from the first leg.
But back to Montreal. Simply put, it’s a fantastic accomplishment. This was the team that had the very worst record in MLS last season – worse than Chivas USA. But their plan of spending two weeks in Mexico prior to the first leg paid dividends in earning the crucial two away goals. After having a hard luck penalty go against them in the 79th minute on Tuesday, a bit of last-second brilliance from Calum Mallace, who delivered an inch-perfect 60-yard pass, and Cameron Porter, who fended off Jurgen Damm and slotted his shot through the legs of Óscar Pérez, sent the Impact through.
The story of Porter is extraordinary. Just a 23-year-old rookie, who didn’t sign with the team until February 7th, Porter only a few months ago was studying for his final exams at Princeton University. Fast forward a few weeks, and he is a MLS hero, a name synonymous with the dramatic endings this tournament can serve up.
Montreal’s odds of winning this tournament are still quite long, but their accomplishment in eliminating a very talented Pachuca side is noteworthy, and only stands to enhance the rivalry between MLS and Liga MX.