Montreal has played just four league games so far this season, and yet the Impact are the biggest story in MLS. Why?
• The Romance of the Cup
We associate this phrase primarily with English soccer’s F.A. Cup, but it applies to all non-league competitions to some degree.
In this case, Montreal, Major League Soccer’s worst team in 2014, and off to a last place start this season, have advanced to the CONCACAF Champions League Final against Mexico’s Club America.
No MLS club has won the competition in its current format, and the odds are not great that Montreal, the first Canadian side to get this far, will be the first.
Neither club is playing particularly well in domestic play coming into tonight’s first leg in Mexico City, although sixth place America sit just three points behind table toppers Chivas Guadalajara in the tightly bunched Liga MX.
Making Montreal’s task even harder is that tonight’s first leg takes place at a sold out Azteca, where over 105,000 Club America supporters will do what they can to send the Norteamericanos home in a deep hole.
2) Montreal Sell Out
If the Impact can manage to keep things close tonight, they should receive a boost next Wednesday when game two kicks off in front of a sellout crowd of 60,000 plus at Montreal’s Olympic Stadium.
It will be interesting to gauge the rooting interest of the Olympic Stadium crowd. Will Club America fans fill Stade Olympique, making the Impact feel like the away team, or have Montreal fans snapped a larger share of the tickets?
3) Expansion Report
Since the league’s two newcomers finished in a 1-1 tie back on March 8 at the Citrus Bowl, the two clubs meandered along the road to mediocrity.
Each club has had some decent moments, and with two wins and eight points earned from seven games, the Lions are currently in playoff position. But Orlando were roughed up for the first time this season last Saturday when they fell 3-0 at Columbus.
Orlando and New York have just one opponent in common, and the Floridians come out on top there, having defeated Portland 2-0 on the road, while NYC FC dropped a 1-0 decision at Yankee Stadium to the struggling Timbers.
Neither side is ringing the bell with any regularity, with Orlando slightly more prolific with six goals scored to five for NYC. The big city boys have conceded less often, allowing six goals as compared to Orlando’s eight, but NYC has developed a nasty habit of surrendering late goals.
NYC have time to correct that late goals habit, and Orlando should be able to bounce back from that loss to Columbus, so it is still too early for either of these expansion sides to panic. We should know more about these two when the teams next meet on July 26th at Yankee Stadium.
4) Coast to Coast Rivals
When the Galaxy face off against the Red Bulls this Sunday at Red Bull Arena it will be a matchup of last season’s MLS Cup Champions and this season’s last remaining unbeaten team.
This rivalry has never quite lived up to league hopes, mainly because the Bulls have failed to hold up its end of the bargain.
New Red Bulls coach Jesse Marsch has his team playing at a high level so far this young season, a good performance against the Champs on Sunday could mean that New York is ready at last to hold up its end of the rivalry.
5) What’s Up With Toronto?
Has any team in MLS consistently gotten less bang for its buck than Toronto FC? While fellow Canadian teams Montreal (CCL Final) and Vancouver (MLS points leader) are in the spotlight for the right reasons, TFC are once again disappointing, and possibly reshuffling.
Toronto spent big in the off-season, signing Jozy Altidore and Italian midfielder Sebastian Giovinco to team with Michael Bradley for the 2015 campaign.
Vanney took over last August from Ryan Nelsen, becoming the seventh full time coach in Toronto’s eight year history, along with two interim stewards.
Now Vanney is rumored to be in trouble, and it is fair to wonder when Toronto’s big spending ways will start to pay dividends.