MONTREAL, Canada -- The Impact de Montreal has made an impression on the CONCACAF Champions League before, embarking on a memorable run to the quarterfinals in the 2008-09 competition.
But that was a different Impact team, before the club became the 19th member of Major League Soccer.
For this version, which hosts the San Jose Earthquakes in its Group 5 opener Wednesday, the Champions League is somewhat foreign.
“For many of us, the CONCACAF Champions League is a new experience, even for those who played in Europe in the Champions League,” defender Matteo Ferrari told MLSsocer.com. “It’s something else. We would like to do a great job in both competitions. If you ask me to choose, I would say both. We are a team that doesn’t have quality only in the starting XI.”
Montreal is currently third in the MLS Eastern Conference, three points behind leaders New York following a 3-1 league loss to D.C. United at RFK Stadium Saturday night. The Impact booked its ticket to the Champions League by winning the 2013 Canadian Championship, advancing on away goals after tying Vancouver 2-2 in the two-legged final.
While Ferrari will be making his CONCACAF Champions League debut, midfielder Collen Warner knows all about the tournament. He was on the Real Salt Lake squad that lost to Monterrey in the 2010-11 final.
“I feel like, at Salt Lake, when we were in the tournament, that really put a lot of pressure on us to do well,” Warner said. “I guess it was the way the team was made up at the tie, which I think will be similar here, with the make-up of the team, the age of the players and so forth. I think Joey [Saputo, club president] is really keen on us being successful.”
Of course, success in both competitions means a well-rounded and deep roster, one Montreal coach Marco Schallibaum believes he has.
“The goal we established at the start of the season was the playoffs,” noted the 51-year-old, Swiss-born Schallibaum. “But we also want the Cup, and we got it. That means we’ll do everything to get good results in the Champions League. We have to rotate the squad, like we’ve done so far in a very positive way; everyone agreed, everyone played well, and we’ll adopt the same approach.”
San Jose is making its first appearance in the Champions League after winning the 2012 MLS Supporters’ Shield. The Earthquakes extended their domestic winning streak to three consecutive games on Saturday with a 2-0 win over Chivas USA. U.S. international forward Chris Wondolowski struck for both goals, following up on a five-goal haul at the recently completed CONCACAF Gold Cup.
“It was great for Wondo,” San Jose interim coach Mark Watson said after the match. “He’s been away for a while and done really well with the national team, but I know he wanted to come back and make a contribution for us. And he did that very well tonight”
Montreal and San Jose met once already this season in MLS play, tying 2-2 at Buck Shaw Stadium on May 4.