Tonight marks the start of the 2013-14 CONCACAF Champions League for the San Jose Earthquakes. Their first CCL opponent, from the "Group of Death," is a familiar foe -- the Montreal Impact. To preview the match, check out the latest CenterLine Report.
As for the Earthquakes opponent, Mount Royal Soccer checks in with a look at what is and isn't important about this tournament for the Montreal Impact. Midweek non-league games don't always get the attention they deserve, but the CCL is not some summer friendly. The winner of the competition moves on to the 2014 FIFA Club World Cup. Not too shabby.
So which team is prepared to gives its all tonight at Stade Saputo? Let's discuss:
Why does the CCL matter to the Montreal Impact
The Montreal Impact has 55,571 reasons to take the CCL seriously. 55,571 fans were at the Olympic Stadium for that famous 2-0 victory over Santos Laguna. Now in MLS, the Montreal Impact has already felt the wrath and discontent of its fans.
After losing 2-0 during the first leg of the 2013 Amway Canadian Championship vs Toronto FC, the club responded with a 6-0 thrashing of the Reds at Stade Saputo. This symbolizes the fans' expectations towards the club and players, in any competition.
The pressure from the fans will always be there and Joey Saputo is the club's biggest fan. The Impact has always believed in winning games, trophies and championships. The 2013-2014 CCL can only help the image of the club but in the same time add a competitive edge to a club that has big ambitions.
The club cannot afford to ignore a competition that put it on the North American map.
Why the CCL doesn't matter to the Montreal Impact
Well if you ask the club's management and coaching staff, the message will always be of competition, taking all games seriously and having a winning mentality. Keeping that in mind, the Montreal Impact is starting a difficult month of August in MLS.
With only 2 wins in its last 9 games, the Impact does not need to be distracted with more games, more travel and more potential injuries and tired legs.
What to expect from the Montreal Impact
Montreal will take a mixed route of experience, youth and a bit luck as it starts the competition. Playing at home against the San Jose Earthquakes, Marco Schallibaum will push his players to get goals early and seal a win.
Drawing first blood will be important as players will gain confidence and embark on a winning. If it loses early in the competition, I do not see the Impact sending its best squad out, especially with the CCL travel schedule. The most important hypothesis in this CCL context will be the Montreal Impact's form in MLS.
With the Eastern Conference being so tight, the Impact will not afford to miss the playoffs in the name of the CCL, even if that competition holds great memories for the fans.