Generally, when an MLS team loses in the Concacaf Champions League, it's easy to see why. It's easy to point to fitness concerns, as these matches come so early in the season. It's easy to point to the superiority of Mexican teams, who have better rosters and much bigger budgets. It's even easy to point to all the reasons that fit under the umbrella term "Concacaf'd", one which anyone who has watched this competition has uttered at least a few times.
On Tuesday night, though, the Montreal Impact couldn't blame those things. There were some questionable decisions, sure, and this was a difficult match against a very game opponent. But, on this night, the Impact can blame no one but themselves.
In Tuesday's quarter-final clash with Honduran cinderellas Olimpia, the Impact were undone by their own mistakes in a 2-1 first leg defeat. The loss was Thierry Henry's first as a head coach, and a harsh lesson in just how backbreaking those missteps can be. As a result, Olimpia will take a massive advantage back to San Pedro Sula, and the Impact will take home plenty of regrets from a match where they proved their own undoing.
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At the start, it looked like the Impact had Olimpia on the ropes. Olimpia goalkeeper Edrick Menjivar was forced out with an apparent leg injury, forcing the visitors to turn to 22-year-old backup Alex Guity for what was just his second professional match.
Seconds later, the ball was in the back of the Impact's net. It was a simple long ball, a headed flick on and a finish by former New England Revolution forward Jerry Bengston. The Impact had fallen asleep just moments after seemingly seizing the advantage, and Olimpia had an away goal because of it.
The second away goal? Equally inexcusable. Once again, long-ball, flick on, Bengston goal. It was as if the Impact learned nothing from their first mistake. What's the old saying? Fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me.
To their credit, the Impact did learn from that point forward, and they saved their chances of turning this tie around because of it. Saphir Taider's wonder-strike kept the Impact's hopes alive in style, firing a long-range missile past Guity and into the back of the net to reignite the Olympic Stadium It was a goal worthy of the occasion and, from there, the Impact pushed for more.
And, with a few moments remaining, it appeared they got it. In the 82nd minute, the Impact were awarded a penalty for an apparent handball in the box. By the 83rd minute, it was wiped away. After consulting with the linesman, referee Adonai Escobedo waved the penalty off. Thierry Henry was irate, perhaps rightfully so, but there was nothing the former Arsenal star could do to change the referee's decision.
There were a lot of things the Impact could have done to change the game on Tuesday, though. They could have stayed tight in those moments of weakness. They could have been smoother in the attacking end. They could have put more than three of their 20 shots on target and they could have found a way to convert their 75 percent possession into one or two more goals.
But they didn't. The Impact weren't undone by lack of fitness or quality. Despite Henry's protests, they weren't Concacaf'd. They made their own mistakes on Tuesday, and now they'll face a difficult test in the second leg because of it.