Alajuelense vs. Montreal Impact | CONCACAF Champions League Match Preview
Alajuelense vs. Montreal Impact
Estadio Alejandro Morera Soto, Alajuela, Costa Rica
CONCACAF Champions League semifinals, 2nd leg
April 7, 10 pm ET
TV: FOX Sports 2, Unimás in US, Sportsnet 360, TVA Sports in Canada
ALAJUELA, Costa Rica -- With a 2-0 advantage over Alajuelense from the first leg, the Montreal Impact head to Costa Rica with one objective in mind: become the first Canadian finalists in the CONCACAF Champions League.
In the first leg on March 18, Montreal jumped to a two-goal lead within 15 minutes. Ignacio Piatti opened the scoring with a blast off his left foot from close range in the ninth minute. Victor Cabrera added the second on a corner kick five minutes later. Despite finding chances on the counter, Montreal could not find a third. Alajuelense, for their part, only placed one shot on target during the game, coming up short of solutions to the Impact’s defensive organization.
A rescheduled bye week allowed the Impact to travel to San José on Saturday. A couple of hours after landing, they witnessed Alajuelense lose 3-1 at Cartaginés in league play, though with only two usual starters on the field. Alajuelense dropped to fourth position in the division, but they had won their previous two games since losing the first leg in CCL, including a 6-0 thrashing of lowly Belén.
Montreal, meanwhile, have yet to find their rhythm in MLS. A scoreless draw at New England felt like a win, given that the Impact played with 10 men for half an hour after Hassoun Camara was dismissed. But they also gave up two goals at home against Orlando City in their most recent game, settling for a 2-2 tie after taking a 2-0 lead.
The Impact will be without Cameron Porter (left ACL surgery) and Justin Mapp (dislocated elbow), who are both out for months. But various injuries have healed during the week, leaving head coach Frank Klopas with nearly every option at his disposal.
- Armchair Analyst: A quick word about Ignacio Piatti & the Montreal Impact counter (4/7)
- Alajuelense fans confident of "la remontada" on home turf vs. Montreal Impact (4/7)
- Impact coaches drop in on Alajuelense for peek at Ticos' "mentality, attitude" (4/7)
- Impact calm, focused in Costa Rica with 90 solid minutes needed to reach final (4/7)
- Impact return to full health ahead of second leg (4/6)
- Is a 2-0 lead safe? What CCL history tells us (4/3)
- Salvadoran Joel Aguilar named referee for second leg (4/1)
- Montreal take positives from first leg, know there's work to do (3/18)
How they got here:
- Alajuelense: Defeated D.C. United 6-4 on aggregate in quarterfinals; Group 6 winner, seed No. 8 (1-3; 6 pts, 4 GF/3 GA)
- Montreal: Defeated Pachuca on away goals (3-3 aggregate) in quarterfinals; Group 3 winner, seed No. 4 (3-0-1; 10 pts, 6 GF/3 GA)
The Opponent – What you need to know about Alajuelense
Coach: Oscar Ramirez (Costa Rica)
Position: 4th in Costa Rican Primera Division (7-4-5; 26 pts, 29 GF/19 GA; Last five games: L-W-W-D-D)
Best CCL/Champions' Cup finish: Winners (1986, 2004)
Star player: Jonathan McDonald
Alajuelense’s only shot on goal in the first leg was his. The defeat spurred McDonald on, as he contributed two goals to the 6-0 drubbing of Belén four days later. It took his tally in the league to eight goals, just two behind top scorer Alejandro Alpízar of Uruguay. McDonald, who was rested against Cartaginés last weekend, played seven games for the Vancouver Whitecaps in North American soccer's second division in 2010 before joining Alajuelense. He is in his second spell with the club, having played two seasons in Sweden in between.
- Alajuelense (4-4-2 diamond): Lewis; Gutierrez, Acosta, Lopez, Peralta; Rodriguez; Venegas, Matarrita; Alonso; Ortiz, McDonald
- Montreal (4-2-3-1): Bush; Cabrera, Ciman, Soumare, Toia; Donadel, Reo-Coker; Oduro, Piatti, Romero; McInerney
Why Alajuelense will win: Alajuelense can only improve from their first-leg performance, and most fans of La Liga will tell you that their team wasn’t even close to showing what they’re actually capable of. This leg will be played at the intimidating Catedral, as locals call the Morera Soto Stadium, where Montreal will face a much more hostile crowd than in Pachuca, where they managed a 2-2 tie. Alajuelense will come out flying, and should they score early, Montreal will be under massive pressure both from the opposition players and fans.
- Find more Impact news at ImpactMontreal.com
Why Montreal will win: The Impact defenders will be crucial in this one, and if they’ve shown anything this season so far, it’s that they’re quite difficult to break down when organized properly. Montreal expect Alajuelense to get in their faces early, but they also know that there will be space to exploit. Montreal are slowly clicking up top, with four goals in their last three games in all competitions. With a two-goal lead to protect, if Montreal can capitalize on one break in the first half, flying home with a ticket to the final just might be in the cards.