Thursday, October 23, 2014

Montreal Impact 1 at New York Red Bulls 1 (CCL) - October 22, 2014

Two months ago I discovered that the New York Red Bulls were playing in the 2014-15 CONCACAF Champions League (CCL) and had been drawn into the same group as the Montreal Impact.  The other team in the group was FAS from El Salvador, who visited Red Bull Arena in August, losing 2-0.

The Impact meanwhile beat FAS twice and the Red Bulls in Montreal to stay perfect in Group 3. If the Red Bulls defeated FAS in San Salvador, then the final group match between the two MLS clubs would decide the group winner. I was sure New York would have no trouble on the road, so I decided to purchase a ticket to this match back in August. I had a $25 coupon from StubHub that could only be used for a Red Bulls home game, so I selected a good seat down low, which cost me $3 once the coupon was applied. I was pretty proud of myself for this foresight. Of course, New York drew 0-0 with FAS, giving Montreal the group and rendering the game essentially meaningless.

When Wednesday turned out to be a downpour, I considered abandoning the match altogether. The Red Bulls would not be playing any of their regular starters, and all that was motivating Montreal was seeding for the quarterfinal stage. I left my camera at home rather than risk it getting soaked on the way to work. But the rain let up late in the afternoon, allowing me to make the short journey to Harrison. Gary from Royalty Tours joined me and we made our way to the stadium.

There were few silly enough to bother wasting their Wednesday evening here, and the Red Bulls game staff applauded each fan that entered. Once inside, though, the rain was no longer a problem as the entire seating area is covered by an overhang. Red Bull Arena is one of the nicer sports facilities in the New York area and it was a unique chance to enjoy a game with perhaps only 1,000 fans in the stands. The actual attendance was never announced, but I know that many with tickets didn't bother to attend.

Before the game, there was a moment of silence in honour of the events in Ottawa earlier that day, which surprised me a bit. Given that the visitors were from Canada, it was a nice touch. After a scoreless and rather dull first half, the Impact got on the board first when Jack McInerney converted a goalmouth pass from Andrés Romero in the 71st minute. It looked like this would hold up, but Connor Lade, recently recalled from the New York Cosmos, somehow deflected the ball past a perplexed Evan Bush to tie the game with just 5 minutes to go. The game finished 1-1 and the Impact fell to fourth among the eight group winners (they would have been seeded second had they won). They will play Pachuca of Mexico in the quarterfinals that take place in late February and early March. Mexican clubs dominate the CCL, winning all six titles so far, but there are only two left in the competition (the other is América). DC United is the only other MLS team, with three Costa Rican sides and one from Honduras completing the field.

The Habs are out of town when the Impact host the second leg (which takes place between March 3 and 5), so not that great for a sports road trip, but I'll still follow the action to see if Montreal can pull off the upset. You should too, these international club competitions are given short shrift by many fans outside of Europe but they offer some exciting matches, this one excepted.



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