The Montreal Impact will be facing off with Mexican side C.F. Pachuca in the Quarterfinals of the CONCACAF Champions League. The two clubs will play in a two-leg playoff.
The dates of the games have not yet been finalized, but we know the first game will be in Pachuca, a city of 275,000 in central Mexico, on February 24, 25 or 26. The second game will be in Montreal on March 3, 4 or 5.
Pachuca are currently in 8th place in the Liga MX – Mexico’s top division of professional soccer – with a 6-4-6 record. The club also leads the league in red cards! They qualified for the Champions League by finishing as runners-up in the 2014 Clausura, the Liga MX’s version of the playoffs.
They were drawn into Group 1, with Guatemalan side C.S.D. Municipal and Real Espana of Honduras. Pachuca finished the Group Stage with three wins and one loss, scoring a competition leading 17 goals in their four games.
The 112-year old club was led in scoring by Argentine striker Ariel Nahuelpan (four goals), while Mexican forward Dario Carreno and midfielder Erick Gutierrez each found the back of the net three times.
Nahuelpan will be a player to keep an eye on when the Impact face Pachuca. He has nine goals in eleven games so far this season. His fellow countryman and strike partner, Matias Alustiza is also one to watch. He was the top goal scorer in the 2012 Copa Libertadores, South America’s equivalent to the Champions League and was just signed by the team.
The club is known for taking the CONCACAF competition very seriously and are four-time champions. They won it in 2002 and then went back-to-back-to-back from 2007 to 2009.
Meanwhile, the Montreal Impact gained entry into the Champions League by winning the Canadian Domestic Cup, the Voyageurs Cup.
Montreal went undefeated in a Group with Salvadorian club C.D. FAS and the MLS’ New York Red Bulls.
The since retired Marco Di Vaio netted four of the Impact’s six goals in the Group Stage. These games will be early indicators of how manager Frank Klopas will fill the void left by the Italian star.
The Impact will be at a bit of a disadvantage come game time. The Major League Soccer season runs from March to November, while the Liga MX runs from August to May. This means that Pachuca will be in mid-season form and Montreal will have yet to play a competitive game in four months.
The first leg in Mexico will be charged with emotion and the home fans will undoubtedly make the Impact’s stay as uncomfortable as possible. They shouldn’t be too rattled by the fans, though. After all, they beat C.D. FAS in front of a group of rowdy supporters.
The return leg in Montreal is scheduled to be played in early March. It’s still uncertain whether it will be contested at Stade Saputo or the Big O. The Big O(we) cannot be used if there’s more than three inches of snow in the forecast, so I believe they will play it safe and host the match at Saputo.
It will be interesting to see how the Mexicans react to the cold weather (remember the U.S.A.-Costa Rica match?)
The Impact-Pachuca match is the battle of the fourth and fifth ranked teams coming out of the Group Stage. Here’s a complete list of the Quarterfinal matches;
1. D.C. United (U.S.A.) v. 8. Alajuelense (Costa Rica)
2. America (Mexico) v. 7. Saprissa (Costa Rica)
3. Herediano (Costa Rica) v. 6. Olimpia (Honduras)
4. Montreal Impact (Canada) v. 5. Pachuca (Mexico)