Arguably for the first time in the competition, the Montreal Impact entered last night’s CONCACAF Champions League game as a clear favourite. And, they lived up to the billing. The Impact were easy 2-0 winners over minnow Joe Public of Trinidad and Tobago.
Montreal’s win was the second by an USL-1 team in two days. On Tuesday, Puerto Rico defeated Panama side Tauro FC 2-1. Meanwhile MLS sides are struggling. With D.C. United’s 2-0 loss to Costa Rician power Deportivo Saprissa on Tuesday, the league’s record fell to 0-4-1 in the competition (and that’s not counting Toronto’s 1-1-2 record in Canadian qualifying against entirely USL competition).
Joe Public had the most shocking result against MLS teams in the previous round, when is won 6-1 on aggregate against New England.
The results are causing many fans of the league to worry. What does it mean? What will the league need to do to improve moving forward? Does anyone really like us?
It isn’t causing the same concerns with the teams themselves, who barely seem interested. With a packed fixture list and restrictive roster rules that don’t allow MLS sides to carry any type of true depth, teams are required to make choices. Some competitions get thrown to the side so that the full focus can be put on other ones. In the MLS, teams are almost always going to focus on the MLS Cup.
It’s possible that Houston might save the day for the league. Certainly the two-time MLS champions are best placed to do so, especially after the Mexican team in their group, UNAM Pumas, dropped points yesterday. Having won back-to-back titles, it’s possible that Houston might view this competition as a more appropriate challenge.
There is no such debate going on in Montreal, where the CCL is clearly the focus. It’s going to get much tougher moving forward, with Mexican side Atlante up next and a solid Honduran team Olimpia. If Atlante takes it seriously, the Impact are unlikely to have a chance. However, if they play a near perfect game there is a chance against the Hondurans. MLS teams have defeated Olimpia in the past, after all.
Canada’s other two pro teams are still playing, of course, albeit in less sexy competition. TFC can’t be mathematically eliminated this weekend, but if the Reds lose to Kansas City they will likely fall more than six points back of the final playoff sport. If that happens, with just five more games left, it’s pretty much over (if they win, however…)
Vancouver, with a 14-7-8 record, has clinched a playoff spot in the USL and can earn the top seed with a win (at Seattle) and if Puerto Rico loses its final two matches. They can finish no lower than second.
The Impact are also in the thick of the playoff battle in the USL. With a 12-11-5 record they have clinched a playoff spot and currently are in third place. They can secure the third place spot with a win at either Minnesota or at home against Puerto Rico. They can finish no lower than sixth.
The top seven teams make the playoffs in the USL, with the top seed receiving a bye through the first round. The other six teams play a home and home (2 v 7, 3 v 6 and 4 v 5) with the winners joing the top team in the semis.
The championship final is Oct 11.