Goalkeeper Evan Bush (pictured) has helped the Impact de Montreal to the 2014/15 Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League final. (Photo courtesy of the Impact de Montreal)
ALAJUELA, Costa Rica – Hassoun Camara was celebrating enthusiastically in the locker room Wednesday after the Impact de Montreal sealed a place in the 2014/15 Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League (SCCL) final. The Frenchman was wondering why his teammates were not in an equally festive mood.
Montreal had just lost 4-2 to host Alajuelense, but advanced on the away-goals rule after their semifinal series ended 4-4 on aggregate.
“We were excited, for sure, but we’re still trying to come down from the game a little bit,” explained goalkeeper Evan Bush, following the match. “For me, I kind of realize these things hours later.”
Not only did Bush, Camara and the entire Impact eventually grasp the magnitude of their accomplishment in becoming the first Canadian team to qualify for an SCCL final, they now face a more difficult task: defeating five-time CONCACAF champion Club America in the two-legged decider later this month.
“We know we’re in for a long one come the next series of two games,” said forward Dilly Duka, 25. “We just got to pace ourselves and do what we did here and against Pachuca.”
Montreal netted a pair of goals – one in each half against Alajuelense at the Estadio Alejandro Morera Soto – ensuring it a unique place in CONCACAF history. Jack McInerney’s strike just three minutes before halftime gave the visitor a 1-0 lead and after the Manudos went ahead, 2-1, Andres Romero leveled in the 72nd minute.
Despite Alajuelense tallying twice more, including Jonathan McDonald’s in the third minute of stoppage time, the Impact ultimately held on.
Though the second half proved to be a test of footballing nerves, Bush did not want to underrate the difficult nature of the opening 45 minutes.
“The first half was a battle too,” noted the 29-year-old. “We scored on pretty much the only chance we had. Otherwise, we were taking pressure and we expected that.
“We did well in the first half to keep the game in front of us and not give any goals away. The second half came and they (Alajuelense) pushed it even harder. We battled through those things and we came out and we did what we needed to advance.”
Surviving and progressing has been Montreal’s specialty throughout the knockout rounds. It got past both Pachuca and Alajuelense on away goals.
Can Club America be overcome in a similar fashion?
“We’re going to adjust,” Duka finished. “This is a confident, talented team.”