Soccer

Impact set to enter hostile territory in Champions League

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The Canadian Press
8/19/2014 5:29:37 PM
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The Montreal Impact are heading into hostile territory for their upcoming CONCACAF Champions League matchup.

The Impact will need to contend with the Central American heat along with a raucous crowd in El Salvador when the Major League Soccer squad takes on C.D. FAS on Wednesday.

Due to strict CONCACAF stadium requirements, FAS is unable to compete on its usual turf in Santa Ana. Instead, the match will be held in the substantially larger Estadio Cuscatlan, a 53,400-seater in the nation's capital.

Knowing just how loud and disruptive the FAS faithful can be, Impact midfielder Maxim Tissot is preparing for an intense atmosphere.

"I heard about them, and it's intimidating," Tissot said in a recent interview. "It'll be tough there, with both the opposing team and the referees. We have to be ready."

In the club's prior Champions League appearances in 2008 and 2013, Montreal travelled to Nicaragua, Mexico, Honduras, Trinidad and Tobago, and Guatemala. The Impact are 2-1-1 all-time in the Champions League in Central America.

This will be the club's first visit to El Salvador — Central America's smallest nation — where the fans are known for their passion and sometimes unruly behaviour.

In addition, Impact manager Frank Klopas will have to watch the match from the press box.

Two weeks ago, when 10-man Montreal beat FAS 1-0 at Saputo Stadium to take a three-point lead at the top of their group, Klopas was ejected for leaving his technical area late in the game.

The ejection came shortly after defender Hassoun Camara was shown a straight red card for a studs-up slide tackle on FAS midfielder Raul Renderos. Camara will also miss Wednesday's match due to suspension.

After the ejections, FAS pressed for the equalizer, but could not capitalize with the man advantage. Striker Marco Di Vaio had the game's lone goal.

"We're going with confidence to El Salvador because we know that it's going to be an important game for us," Di Vaio said. "We have to go there to try to win. We arrive there with more confidence for sure because we came out of a bad time and we know that everything now is simpler."

Montreal's meagre victory at home against the group's weakest team could be its undoing. The Impact's offensive woes proved costly last year when goal differential was a factor in their group stage elimination.

This fall, Montreal (1-0-0) will finish group play with a home-and-away series against the New York Red Bulls, the third and final team in Group 3. New York has yet to play a Champions League match this year.

Only the winner of the group will advance to the eight-team knockout stage.

FAS (0-1-0) is one of the most popular soccer teams in El Salvador. With 17 national titles, it is the country's most decorated club. FAS is currently sixth in the Salvadoran Premier League with four points from three games.

In 1979, the club won the CONCACAF Champions' Cup in what later became the Champions League. Since the tournament changed name and format in 2008, FAS has never made it past the group stage in three occasions.

On Wednesday, FAS will look for another standout performance from goakeeper Luis Contreras, who made six saves against the Impact two weeks ago. If not for Contreras, Montreal would likely have run away with the game early on.

FAS will also benefit from a full team, which wasn't the case at Saputo Stadium. Due to visa issues, the team from Santa Ana travelled to Canada with just 14 players and without its head coach.

The Impact, meanwhile, will have a slightly different look for the road game. Montreal finally added Argentine midfielder Ignacio Piatti to its roster after a lengthy courting process.

Piatti made his first start for the club on Saturday before being substituted shortly after halftime. His arrival may not help the struggling team in MLS play, but the 29-year-old could help Montreal make a push in the Champions League.

The Champions League is an annual club tournament that involves 24 teams from North America, Central America, and the Caribbean. Montreal is representing Canada in the competition after winning the Amway Canadian Championship in June.

Notes: The Impact trained in Miami on Monday before leaving for El Salvador on Tuesday. … The distance between Montreal and San Salvador is 3,825 kilometres. … In 2008-09, when still in the North American Soccer League, the Impact reached the Champions League quarter-finals. … Montreal ended a seven-game losing streak in MLS with a 1-0 victory over Chicago on Saturday.

Ignacio Piatti Marco Di Vaio  (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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