Ex-Aston Villa and West Ham midfielder Nigel Reo-Coker dodges ice cubes and shoes in CONCACAF

Nigel Reo Coker

The Montreal Impact midfielder has had to deal with some harsh conditions during the MLS club's historic run to the CONCACAF Champions League final.

The CONCACAF Champions League has a well-deserved reputation for presenting MLS teams with hostile road atmospheres, as Montreal Impact midfielder Nigel Reo-Coker has been made all too aware of in recent months.

After becoming the first Canadian and just the second MLS team to make the competition’s final, Montreal will face Mexican giants Club America in tonight’s first-leg at the Estadio Azteca, where a raucous crowd of around 105,000 is expected to greet them.

The underdogs have overcome some tough opponents in previous rounds, in Pachuca and Costa Rica’s Alajuelense, and Reo-Coker has told ExtraTime Radio that the difficult conditions faced in those trips will stand them in good stead for whatever the Azteca throws at them – even the infamous bags of urine.

“I haven’t experienced the urine yet but we did experience ice cubes in Costa Rica,” he said from Mexico City. “We got ice cubes, shoes and other things thrown at us so I would say that kind of stuff has prepared us.”

Continuing on the differences between continental club football in North America and Europe, the former Aston Villa and West Ham United man added: “It’s difficult here because obviously there’s a lot you have to deal with.

“With most of these Central American teams you have to deal with altitude and watch what you’re eating and drinking.

“Sometimes the referees don’t make it easy for you either so you know it’s going to be difficult.

“These people are very passionate about their football,” he added. “The environment’s difficult, as over here football’s not just a sport – it’s a way of life.”

Having qualified through the 2014 Canadian Championship, Montreal’s unexpected run to the CCL final looks all the more impressive when taking into account that the club finished bottom of last season’s MLS regular campaign standings.

That disappointment led to a significant winter rebuild, with Reo-Coker one of several veteran figures brought in to provide some much-needed experience.

The ex-England Under-21 international has led a nomadic MLS life since joining the Vancouver Whitecaps in 2013, getting traded to the now-defunct Chivas USA in August and then selected in December’s Dispersal Draft, but things are so far going well with his new club.

Captaining the team with usual skipper Patrice Bernier out of the line-up, the London-native has looked a real bargain pick-up during the opening weeks of the 2015 season and now has the chance to help Frank Klopas’ side become the first MLS outfit to both lift the Champions League and make the FIFA Club World Cup in the process.

However, with Club America posing formidable opponents, bringing a positive result back home for the second-leg on April 29 will prove a tough ask.

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