MLS's worst team keeps defying odds in CONCACAF Champions League final

Leander Schaerlaeckens
MLS's worst team keeps defying odds in CONCACAF Champions League final
MLS's worst team keeps defying odds in CONCACAF Champions League final

It was very nearly another Montreal miracle.

On Wednesday night, the Montreal Impact, the worst team in Major League Soccer, went into the frightfully daunting Estadio Azteca in Mexico City and came within a few minutes of taking a win back to Canada in the first leg of the CONCACAF Champions League final. But Oribe Peralta canceled out Ignacio Piatti's 16th-minute goal at the death for Club America to salvage a 1-1 draw.

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This is what makes this story amazing: Last season, Montreal finished dead-last in MLS, taking just 28 points from six wins, 18 losses and 10 ties. So far this season, with six games played, they're last again, on just two points – which also makes them the league's lone winless team.

But somehow, the Impact – which qualified by winning the 2014 Canadian Championship – has clawed its way through the CONCACAF Champions League. It became just the second MLS team to eliminate a Mexican team in the knockout stages when it beat Pachuca on away goals. Then, in the semifinals, it survived Alajuelense's late onslaught, again winning on away goals. That made the Canadians just the second MLS team to reach the final of this tournament. The other was Real Salt Lake, a highly successful and polished side then in the middle of a dynastic run.

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With just over a quarter of an hour played, Montreal's Argentine playmaker Ignacio Piatti ran onto a square ball from Dominic Oduro, which Dilly Duka had cleverly dummied to distract the defenders. That left just enough room for Piatti to slot it in, putting the Impact ahead.

A little later, Piatti chipped a good look just wide. And on the brink of the half, Montreal should have gone up a man, when Osvaldo Martinez pulled down Oduro, who was clearly through on an open goal-scoring opportunity. Somehow, the referee, who seemed a tad overwhelmed by the cauldron igniting all around him, only gave a yellow card.

Of course, the second half became a Mexican onslaught, with the play getting rougher and the pressure building with every passing minute. But Impact goalkeeper Evan Bush stood strong, making a series of fine saves. Certainly, he had luck on his side, like when Rubens Sambueza's rocket cracked off the crossbar.

But in the end, as always seems to be the case, the Mexicans found a way. With a free kick won along the side of Montreal's penalty area, the ball was lifted to Peralta at the far post, whose powerful header finally put the ball in the net.

While it may feel disappointing, given that a win was in their grasp, taking away a tie from the Azteca, against the region's biggest club – with a precious away goal in tow – is nothing to sniff at for the Impact.

In next week's rematch up north, there is every opportunity to register a final miracle.

Leander Schaerlaeckens is a soccer columnist for Yahoo Sports. Follow him on Twitter @LeanderAlphabet.