The Montreal Impact’s dreams of becoming the first MLS club to win the CONCACAF Champions League were dashed last night after a 4-2 defeat to Club America saw them lose the two-legged final series 5-3 on aggregate.
After earning a shock 1-1 draw in last week’s first-leg at the Estadio Azteca, Montreal raced off to a fantastic start in front of a 61,000-plus home crowd, going into the break 1-0 up thanks to Andres Romero’s eight-minute opener.
America’s relentless attack proved too powerful to stifle, however, as the visitors struck three times in a 16-minute span just after the interval before forward Dario Benedetto completed his hat-trick nine minutes from the end to leave the Impact’s CCL hopes in tatters.
Substitute Jack McInerney salvaged some pride for the Canadian side in the closing stages but there would be no coming back from the disastrous period after half-time, as the Mexican giants were the ones celebrating a continental title and Club World Cup berth.
It was a disappointing end to a historic run which had seen them dispatch both Pachuca and Costa Rica’s Alajuelense in the earlier knockout rounds, despite finishing bottom of last season’s MLS regular campaign standings, but America’s superior talent showed in the end.
Injuries had also taken their toll, though, as star winger Justin Mapp and rookie Cameron Porter were both lost to long-term issues last month, while defenders Victor Cabrera and Hassoun Camara missed the final’s second-leg with knocks.
Their absence saw head coach Frank Klopas elect to use midfielder Nigel Reo-Coker at right-back, where the stand-in skipper proceeded to have a disastrous showing, proving culpable for America’s first three goals.
The former Aston Villa and West Ham United man had started at the position on a regular basis for the Vancouver Whitecaps during his first season in MLS but his lack of recent backline practice was more than noticeable on the night.
He was far from pleased with his performance either, telling MLSsoccer.com at the final whistle: “I got asked to do a job. I hadn’t played there for over two years now. I got asked to do a job, and I did it the best I could.
“…I don’t know what to say, really, if I’m honest.”
Those on Twitter had a lot to say about the Englishman’s performance, though, with the reaction proving somewhat telling.
The Canadian soccer fan in me is devastated the Impact lost their lead, but the Whitecaps fan in me is laughing his head off at Reo-Coker.— Jacob Noseworthy (@JacobNoseworthy) April 30, 2015
Reo-Coker again...— Mike Martignago (@MikeMartignago) April 30, 2015
Reo-Coker May have to move out of Montreal tomorrow— Steven Sandor (@stevensandor) April 30, 2015
Told ya beforehand, Reo Coker at right back was gonna do it— Kevin Kinkead (@KevinKCBS3) April 30, 2015
As they say in French, pas deux sans trois. Reo-Coker guilty on all three goals.— Paul Kennedy (@pkedit) April 30, 2015
Reo Coker is terrible lol— Cam Bancroft (@cambanc) April 30, 2015
Why Reo-Coker is playing at right back we never know but he has cost his team,all three goals coming from his side. #Impact are out of this.— Soccer Sanchez (@Soccer_Sanchez) April 30, 2015
That had been America's plan the whole match...have Quintero attack Reo-Coker at RB. Aguilas finally get the timing right, then repeat.— Jon Arnold (@ArnoldcommaJon) April 30, 2015
"Should I REALLY start Nigel Reo-Coker at right back?" - a question the Montreal manager never thought to ask himself— dylan (@clrkd) April 30, 2015
The Reo-Coker right back experiment worked for about 50 minutes, but quickly collapsed. With no IMFC possession, he was going to get exposed— Ives Galarcep (@SoccerByIves) April 30, 2015
Alas, he @impactmontreal will be eternally know for historic collapses. Nigel Reo-Coker has been dire, at fault for all 3 goals.— Ian McKinley (@McKinleyWriting) April 30, 2015
You wonder what amount of focus their will be on Reo-Coker's performance at right back. @CF_America's first three goals came down his side.— Simon Fudge (@SimonFudge74) April 30, 2015
Don't start Nigel Reo-Coker at right back? https://t.co/ab0HUnfPtu— Jason Davis (@davisjsn) April 30, 2015
Seriously, I could dribble around Reo-Coker.— Chris Lidholm (@mnunitedvox) April 30, 2015