It would be hard to search more than a century of Canadian soccer history to find a situation more steeped in irony than what the Impact and John Smits face heading into the decisive match of the CONCACAF Champions League.
Last year, Smits was in goal for FC Edmonton when Patrice Bernier struck the 96th-minute second-leg penalty to give the Impact a win over the NASL side in the semifinals of the Canadian Championship. Smits and his Eddies were seconds — seconds — away from ending Montreal’s attempt to go to CONCACAF Champions League over a year ago. Seconds away from ensuring there would have been no Cinderella wins over sides in Mexico, Costa Rica and the United States
(Let’s remind Montreal fans of the six minutes of added time at home if any want to complain about any of the hometown calls that went Club America’s way in the first leg of Wednesday’s CONCACAF Champions League final, a 1-1 draw which was a fantastic result for the MLS side. But, after getting six minutes of added time at home against a lower-division club in an earlier step in this journey, Montreal fans forfeit the right to complain about any kind of hometown officiating).
As time went on, the bitterness gave way to a sense of cooperation; Smits was loaned out to the Impact for the second leg of the semifinal — and, even though the Eddies have Canadian Championship games on the same nights as the two legs of the CCL final, they agreed to loan Smits to the Impact for the games against Club America.
Now, with news that Evan Bush got a late yellow card — which, if not rescinded, would rule him out of the second leg — Smits could end up between the sticks for the Impact at the Big O, for the biggest game in club history.
Sometimes, dammit, don’t you just love this game? How it could turn enemies into strange bedfellows? How Smits’s agony of defeat against the Impact a little more than a year ago could end up having the chance to be part of the greatest victory thrill in Canadian club soccer history?
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