The Montreal Impact's stand-in skipper helped them become the first Canadian side to reach the CONCACAF Champions League final after edging past Costa Rica's Alajuelense.
The Nigel Reo-Coker-captained Montreal Impact entered the record books last night, becoming the first Canadian club to make the CONCACAF Champions League final following a nerve-jangling affair at Costa Rica’s Alajuelense.
The Impact held a 2-0 lead going into the second-leg of their semi-final tie in Central America but, with attacking duo Justin Mapp and Cameron Porter both lost to long-term injuries, knew that holding onto their advantage would prove a far from straightforward task.
Porter’s replacement, Jack McInerney, scored what looked to be the series-deciding goal just before half-time but Alajuelense fought back after the break with a Pablo Gabas brace to set up a tense final half-hour.
Andres Romero netted in the 72nd-minute to give Montreal some breathing room but the home side answered through Allen Guevara and Jonathan McDonald’s stoppage-time strike to leave them needing just one more last-gasp goal to advance.
Frank Klopas’ side managed to hold on for a 4-4 aggregate draw, however, with the two crucial road goals setting up a final against either another Costa Rican outfit, Herediano, or Mexican giants Club America.
Having qualified for the tournament through their 2014 Canadian Championship win, Montreal’s impressive run to the CCL final looks all the more impressive when taking into account that the club finished dead-last in last term’s MLS regular-season standings, leading to a significant roster overhaul in the months following.
Reo-Coker, 30, was one of those brought in to provide some much-needed experience, having been selected in December’s Dispersal Draft from the now-defunct Chivas USA, and is so far proving to be a real bargain pick-up.
The former Aston Villa and West Ham United midfielder has captained the team in all seven of their 2015 fixtures with usual skipper Patrice Bernier out of the line-up and now has the chance to help them become the first MLS outfit to lift the CCL and make the FIFA Club World Cup in the process.