CONCACAF Champions League Archive

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Introducing our new quintessentially Canadian MLS power rankings

mls-primary_colorLong-time Canadian international Iain Hume had an interesting take on Saturday’s “Canadian” MLS season-opener at BC Place between the Whitecaps and Toronto FC.

In a tweet delivered just as the game kicked off, Hume used the #farce hashtag to sum up his feelings about the game. With each team starting just one Canadian — Russell Teibert for the Whitecaps and Jonathan Osorio in TFC red — Hume wanted his followers to know he wasn’t happy.

But, looking at the rosters throughout MLS, you can’t help escape the feeling that Hume could tweet out #farce week after week. And, in the spring issue (#5) of Plastic Pitch, we’re going to take a cold, hard look at the leagues we share at the United States and how we’re treated. The issue, which will be out later in March, will ask the hard question: Does being in MLS or NASL or NWSL really benefit Canadian soccer?

And, in keeping with that theme, we’re going to launch a new sorta power-rankings system. Sure, most power rankings are just throwaway click-bait; the kinda of mind-numbing stuff we promise ourselves we’ll never have to write again each time we bang one out.

But this one is different. Throughout the year, we’re going to rank MLS teams (and NASL, too, once the season starts in April) on how many minutes they give to Canadians. We’re not going to wax poetic about U-23 teams or developmental sides; for Canadian soccer to move forward, we need to see players regularly moving from developmental squad to first team, not just more and more Bryce Aldersons (and, look for our interview with Alderson in issue 5 of Plastic Pitch). We also don’t really care that some teams might have a Canadian warming the bench. To benefit our national program, we need our players getting first-team minutes.
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On a big night for soccer, we should celebrate Sadiki’s goal more vociferously than Porter’s

Kosovar Sadiki

Kosovar Sadiki

So, on a Tuesday night packed with action for the Canadian soccer supporter — what was the most important moment?

Was it a last-gasp goal from Cameron Porter, or a second-half marker from Kosovar Sadiki?

Porter’s injury time equalizer was what the Montreal Impact needed to advance in the CONCACAF Champions League at the expense of Mexican side, Pachuca. When it looked like the Impact would once again be foiled by a Mexican side at the quarter-final stage, the rookie-turned-super-sub notched the marker that turned the Big O into a big party.

Meanwhile, in front of about 37,995 fewer spectators in the stands in Honduras, Sadiki scored the goal to give his Canadian U-17 side a precious 3-2 win over Costa Rica. The win moved Canada to two wins in two matches at the CONCACAF U-17 Championships; to have any shot at the qualifying for the U-17 World Cup, the Canadians have to finish in the top three in their group. And that means the Canadians will need to finish ahead of either Mexico, Panama or Costa Rica. If the Canadians finish atop their group, then they get a direct route to the World Cup, with no worry of a crossover playoff.

Let’s face it; after the U-20 team flamed out at their age group’s CONCACAF playdowns — and with the overall malaise that has gripped Canadian men’s soccer for, well, at least five World Cup qualifying cycles, we’ve grown accustomed to not expecting much from our national teams. Sadiki’s goal might end up being fool’s gold; but, for one hopeful night, it’s a light at the end of dark, dreary tunnel.

Now, let’s get back to Porter’s goal. A wonderful moment in Montreal sports, but definitely not a milestone in Canadian sports. In 2009, when more than 55,000 jammed into the Big O to watch the then-second-division Impact play Santos Laguna in the CCL quarterfinals, there was a lot to admire about that group. On that day, four Canadians started. Sure, there were Americans and other foreigners on the team, but with John Limniatis coaching, and local players on the pitch, there was no shaking the Canadian — no, the Quebecois — heart of this team. You might have loved that team, you might have hated that team, but with the passion of Canadian players like Sandro Grande and Nevio Pizzolitto, you had to admit that the team had a soul.
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1

Without a CBA in place, there’s a “possibility” union action could see Montreal, DCU forfeit CCL matches

“The Collective Bargaining Agreement is scheduled to expire on January 31, 2015,” Foose wrote in an e-mail. “When it expires, the obligation not to engage in a work stoppage also expires. I do not want to comment on when or if there would be a work stoppage. All I can say is that unless there is a Collective Bargaining Agreement in place, there is always the possibility of a work stoppage.”

The Montreal Impact is scheduled to be in Mexico on Feb. 24, as the team is scheduled to open its two-match CONCACAF Champions League quarter-final with Pachuca. Two days later, D.C. United is scheduled to meet Alajuelense in Costa Rica.

But what if those games are forfeited by the MLS sides — because the players are in a work-stoppage situation?

Unless a new deal is reached quickly, there’s a good chance that there will be no Collective Bargaining Agreement in place between MLS and its players union in February. The current deal expires in January and the sides are only in the first stages of negotiations.

Now, it needs to be stated that in 2010, when the union and the MLS only came to a deal just days before the start of the league’s regular season, the CCL matches went on unaffected.

But that don’t-play option is open to the players if there is no CBA in place.
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8

NASL commissioner to meet with CSA execs: To discuss how NASL “can be a better partner” to Canada

Bill Peterson PHOTO: NASL

Bill Peterson PHOTO: NASL

NASL commissioner Bill Peterson will be in the nation’s capital on April 19, when the Ottawa Fury plays its first regular-season match on the Carleton University turf against Minnesota United.

As part of the trip to Ottawa, Peterson will meet with the Canadian Soccer Association officials. His stated goal? To find ways that NASL “can be a better partner” to the CSA. He said that, now that he’s settled in as the league commissioner, he wants to create a closer working relationship with the CSA.

Peterson said the league “will explore options on how we can better align ourselves with the CSA’s professional goals.”

What that means is unclear. The Canadian Soccer Association has a mandate to create a series of regional Division-3 leagues, but the NASL’s role as a recognized Division-2 league in Canada is untouched. But, as the NASL fights for relevance, the optics of going to the CSA with a “how can we help you?” stance definitely scores PR points for Peterson and his crew. Remember that the Canadian Soccer Association’s continuing plea to have Canadians recognized as domestics in Division-1 MLS has consistently fallen on deaf ears. In 2009, Canadians saw an average of 1404.1 minutes per team in MLS; in 2013, that number had plummeted to 1025.2 minutes allocated per team to Canadians, despite the fact that the number of Canadian franchises had gone from one to three in that time.
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Impact’s CCL hopes now hang by a thread after humbling loss to San Jose

Chris Wondolowski

Chris Wondolowski

The fat lady hasn’t sung yet, but the Montreal Impact might be hearing someone practising scales backstage after dropping a 3-0 decision to the San Jose Earthquakes in CONCACAF Group 5 play in front of a sparse crowd at Buck Shaw Stadium.

The Impact has just three points from three Group 5 matches, with a home game left to Heredia, which will be played next week. The Guatemalan side is already at six points after just two games. The Impact needs to beat Heredia by a handful of goals and hope the Earthquakes, sitting at three points, also beat Heredia, but only do it by the skin of their teeth. Heredia is currently five goals ahead of the Impact on goal difference, the Earthquakes are four goals up.

To advance the Impact needs all the teams in the group to finish with six points each — and a massive shift in goal difference.

Head coach Marco Schallibaum put out a somewhat re-jigged starting XI with Evan Bush in goal and Daniele Paponi and Andrew Wenger up top while Felipe and leading MLS scorer, Marco Di Vaio, watched from the sidelines for the first hour of play while his opposite number, Mark Watson, went with his best XI from the outset.

The game began with both teams opening the throttle as play went end to end and each side had opportunities in the early going. Paponi had the first kick at the can in the opening minute, his try missing the mark.

Andres Romero had the ball at his feet and the time to set himself for a shot but passed instead only to have Wenger’s attempt blocked by a San Jose defender, the beginning of a difficult night for the rarely used Impact forward.
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2

Impact’s 10 men fall 1-0 in Guatemala

Piscu: Saw red

Piscu: Saw red

Montreal Impact head coach Marco Schallibaum decided to leave five veteran starters back home rather than risk playing them on a synthetic surface. So, he let the younger players on the roster carry the baton for the team’s CONCACAF Champions League game against CD Heredia in Guatemala City. The kids came within a couple minutes of a result, ultimately allowing the match’s only goal in the 88th minute, a respectable outing since Montreal played the second half a man down.

Jeb Brovsky was the only familiar face on the back line, playing alongside homegrown Wandrille Lefevre and Maxim Tissot while Adrian Lopez made his first appearance for the Impact, listed under the nom de pitch, Piscu.

Heredia, home side despite playing some 250 km from its stadium, took control of the game after an opening quarter-hour that saw both teams start tentatively with each benefiting from some good fortune in the early going

In the 19th, Lefevre was called for tripping up CD Heredia froward, Enrique Miranda, in the box, sending Charles Cordoba to the spot. His rising drive was bounced back into play by the horizontal bar as Evan Bush, anticipating a low shot, dove towards the corner of his goal.
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0

Schallibaum’s decision to play Impact regulars in CCL surprises San Jose

Montreal Impact supporters were signing in the rain. PHOTO: MIKE WYMAN

Montreal Impact supporters were signing in the rain. PHOTO: MIKE WYMAN

The Montreal Impact got its CONCACAF Champions League campaign of to a positive start, capturing the opening group-stage match against San Jose by a 1-0 score in front of just over 15,000 somewhat soggy fans at Saputo Stadium.

Playing a first half under rains that ranged from slight showers to monsoon-like, the home side scored early, survived a dangerous penalty kick and, while not holding the advantage in terms of ball possession, did manage to reach the interval holding a lead that stood up for the rest of the match.

Showing particularly well for the Impact was recently acquired midfielder, Hernan Bernardello, who started the game, getting his first minutes in his new uniform.

The 26-year-old Argentine midfielder, who earned his first applause of the evening for heading away an Earthquakes shot in the seventh minute of play, worked from box-to-box in this evening’s game, stopping enemy forays effectively and turning the ball up the field on the counterattack. His passes invariably found their desired target time after time with 50 minutes elapsing before a first one went astray.
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The force is strong in these ones: Brovsky inspires Impact teammates and Jebi Knights to aid orphans

Impact vice-president Richard Legendre, top left, poses with Jebi Knight Benoit Labonte and his family.

Impact vice-president Richard Legendre, top left, poses with Jebi Knight Benoit Labonte and his family.

Montreal Impact fans are known for turning up, sometimes in great numbers, to support their boys on the road.

But, the bulk of the Impact supporters in the stands when the team goes on the road Aug. 21 to face CD Heredia will likely be from a little closer to Guatemala City than to La Belle Province.

If things pan out, some 300 of Jeb Brovsky’s friends and acquaintances, most of them orphans, will be attending. The popular and socially concerned defender met the youngsters through the work of his non-profit organization, Peace Pandemic, which he founded during his college days and has used since as an instrument to promote peace and human rights, particularly for children and women. He’s traveled to India and Guatemala during the last two off-seasons to put his opinions into action.

Capturing the Amway Canadian Championship meant a CONCACAF Champions League berth for the Impact. When the Guatemala City side was announced as an opening round opponent, a light went above the Colorado-born defender’s head.

“When Jeb learned that the Impact were going to play in Guatemala he tweeted, ‘Why don’t we invite the 600 youngsters I met?’” said Benoit Labonte, a ranking member of The Jebi Knights, an organization with the motto “Go Impact The World.” On its website, the group describes itself as “Peaceful hooligans becoming Guardians of Peace and Justice.”

Brovsky’s tweet became the impetus for Operacion Quetzel.
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1

Impact gets favourable Champions League draw

CCLnewGetting out of the CONCACAF Champions League group stage is definitely mission possible for the Montreal Impact.

The newly crowned Canadian champions founds out Monday that they will face the San Jose Earthquakes and a to-be-decided Guatemalan league qualifier in CCL Group 5. The Impact could not have asked for a kinder draw.

The Earthquakes went into Pot A as the 2012 MLS regular-season champions. But the Earthquakes are struggling this season. The Impact and Quakes faced each other earlier this year, and played to a 2-2 draw.

But, the Quakes are currently out of a playoff spot — and their slow start means they’ll have to play all-put throughout the summer in order to get back in the chase. And that means coach Frank Yallop will likely need to make some tough squad decisions when MLS and CCL games come fast and furious. Read the rest of this entry »

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Galaxy’s CCL hopes force Impact to juggle its schedule

LA-Galaxy-logoAs has been expected for almost two weeks, MLS has postponed the Montreal Impact’s April 6 road date against the Los Angeles Galaxy.

Commissioner Don Garber had been quoted on MLSSoccer.com, saying that the league was looking at clearing the schedules of the Galaxy and the Seattle Sounders, who each play Mexican opposition in the CONCACAF Champions League semifinals. That came to pass Thursday, as the league has cleared the Sounders and Galaxy of playing commitments for the April 6-7 weekend. That now gives both MLS clubs the chance to have a weekend off between their two CCL midweek semifinal legs. The Galaxy will play Monterrey, the two-time defending CCL champs, while the Sounders play Santos Laguna, who knocked Toronto FC out of the tourney last season.
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