Impact reach Champions League quarter-finals
The Montreal Impact turned mission impossible into mission accomplished as they held CD Olimpia to a 1-1 tie at a rain-swept Saputo Stadium on Tuesday night, enough to earn a berth in the quarter-finals of the CONCACAF Champions League.
"This is huge," Impact defender Nevio Pizzolitto. "This was a chance for us and we took it.
"We showed Canada that we have high quality soccer here. It feels good to win respect."
Roberto Brown opened the scoring in the 40th minute for the unbeaten Impact (3-0-2), which tops Group C with 11 points over Atlante FC of Mexico (8), Olimpia (5) and Joe Public FC of Trinidad and Tobago (3).
"Montreal has a great team, but we had two or three opportunities and we missed them," Olimpia coach Juan de Dios Castillo said.
Montreal closes out the opening round of the tournament next Tuesday in Cancun, where it visits Atlante (CBC Bold, CBCSports.ca, 10 p.m. ET).
"It would be nice to finish first and face a second-place team [in the next round], but there is not going to be any weak teams," Impact coach John Limniatis said. "I think it will be a difficult match."
After that, the Impact will disperse for a two-month vacation, reassembling for indoor training camp at Montreal on Jan. 5.
"We will have six to eight weeks to get into a rhythm," Impact general manager Nick de Santis said, mindful that 17 players have contracts that expire at the end of the month.
The quarter-final round, featuring the two top teams from each of the four groups, begins Feb. 24 - when Saputo Stadium will likely be blanketed in snow.
Impact president Joey Saputo is looking into the possibility of using Olympic Stadium, but it normally is closed from December to March because of fears that the roof cannot withstand the weight of accumulated snow.
Winter winds tore a hole in the stadium roof on Jan. 18, 1999.
"Olympic Stadium is the only place to hold the match, so they have to make it work," Limniatis said.
Brown big for Impact
Brown staked Montreal to a 1-0 lead off a give-and-go with midfielder Sandro Grande, whose initial shot struck the shoulder of Olimpia keeper Noel Valladares and caromed in front to Brown, who scooped it sideways over his shoulder and into the net.
Brown scored both goals in Montreal's 2-1 victory over Olimpia at Tegucigalpa, Honduras, on Oct. 1.
Washington Ramiro Bruschi replied for the Honduran side in the waning seconds of the first half.
Wilmer Velasquez's splendid return pass split the defence and sprung Bruschi, who surprised Impact keeper Matt Jordan with a cheeky, left-footed chip shot.
"We expected to have a good team for this tournament, but we met some hard teams," Castillo said. "We had six players with our national team for World Cup qualifying."
The Impact won the right to represent Canada in Champions League with impressive showings in a national tournament with Toronto FC of Major League Soccer and United Soccer Leagues rival Vancouver Whitecaps.
With files from the Canadian Press