Impact bounced from CONCACAF Champions League
The Montreal Impact were two minutes from clinching a berth in the semifinals of the inaugural CONCACAF Champions League, but it turned out to be two minutes too many.
Carlos Darwin Quintero scored twice in stoppage time as Santos Laguna rallied for a remarkable 5-2 victory Thursday night at Torreon, Mexico, eliminating the Impact 5-4 on aggregate.
Montreal won the opening leg 2-0 last Wednesday in front of 55,571 delirious fans at Olympic Stadium, and would have advanced on the strength of "away" goals had Santos not scored a fifth goal in the return leg at Corona Stadium.
Santos will face Mexican rival Atlante FC in the next round; Cruz Azul, also from Mexico, meets the Puerto Rico Islanders in the other semifinal.
"We didn't work as much," Impact head coach John Limniatis said. "It is unfortunate to finish this way."
Christian Benitez staked Santos to a 1-0 lead, but Roberto Brown and Eduardo Sebrango replied for Montreal in the 24th and 38th minute, respectively.
Matias Vuoso tied it 2-2 for Santos in the 54th minute, and converted a lovely pass from Walter Jimenez for the go-ahead goal.
Leading 3-2 with four minutes of extra time remaining, Quintero scored twice, in the 93th and 94th minute, to steal the match — and the quarter-final series.
"The team should have done better as far as applying the basic principles, which we normally execute well," Limniatis said. "Santos Laguna showed a lot of energy — this is normal when a team scores goals — and it kept them going until the end."
Benitez opened the scoring 14 minutes into the match, sneaking behind Nevio Pizzolito and Leonardo Di Lorenzo to head in a high cross for his team-high fifth goal of the tournament.
But the Impact maintained their composure, and goalkeeper Matt Jordan kept them with striking distance with a diving save on a dangerous header from Vuoso.
Montreal tied it 1-1 in the 24th minute as Brown intercepted an errant pass and found the far corner for his team-high fourth goal.
Santos was turned away off a free kick in the 35th minute, when Jordan dropped to his knees to smother a bouncing volley from midfielder Juan Pablo Santiago.
A minute earlier, Oswaldo Sanchez pulled up lame, clutching his left hamstring and prompting backup keeper Miguel Becerra to enter the match as a substitute.
Becerra failed to pass his first test as Joey Gjertsen chipped the ball to Sebrango, who spun and scored his third goal of the series in the 38th minute.
Becerra narrowly avoided a foul as he made contact with a hard-charging Brown early in the second half, and Vuoso capitalized on the counter-attack to tie it 2-2.
Moments later, Quintero drilled a shot off the right post as Santos took complete control of the match.
Montreal's lone opportunity in the second half was a left-footer from midfielder David Testo that Becerra snared with both hands.
Impact advanced out of Group C
Montreal and Atlante advanced out of the opening round of the tournament in Group C.
Both the Impact and Atlante closed out the opening round with 11 points (3-1-2), but the Mexicans secured top spot in the grouping based on the head-to-head.
Atlante is one of the premier sides from Mexico, winning the CONCACAF Champions Cup, the forerunner to Champions League, in 1983, and placing second in 1994.
Montreal posted a pair of impressive shutouts in qualifying for the group stage.
The Impact held Nicaraguan champion Real Esteli FC to a 0-0 draw in the second leg of their preliminary round playoff at Carlos Miranda Stadium in Comayagua, Honduras, last Sept. 2.
That result, coupled with a 1-0 triumph in the home leg at Montreal, was enough for the Impact to qualify for the group stage on aggregate.
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 the Vancouver Whitecaps of the United Soccer Leagues.
With files from the Canadian Press