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The Impact had a simple game plan going into the second leg of their Round of 16 CONCACAF Champions League matchup against Costa Rican side Deportivo Saprissa at the Olympic Stadium Wednesday: Score the first goal and put the pressure on the visitors.
The plan failed.
But it didn’t matter because while Saprissa enjoyed a decided edge in the play, the visitors failed to score and the 0-0 draw was enough to send the Impact to to the CCL quarter-finals.
The first leg last week in Costa Rica also ended in a draw, but it was 2-2 and those away goals broke the aggregate tie in Montreal’s favour.
Saprissa had a better than 2-to-1 edge in possession in the first half, but each team only managed three shots and only one of Saprissa’s shots was on target.
The Impact might have had the best chance to score in the 44th minute, when Romell Quioto set up Jorge Corrales in the middle of the box, but the defender fired his shot directly at Saprissa goalkeeper Aaron Cruz.
Christian Bolanos did a good job controlling the play for the visitors and delivered a cross to Johan Venegas at the far post in the 14th minute. The former Impact striker got his head on the ball, but he directed it over the crossbar.
Saprissa held a 13-3 edge in shots, but only two were on target, giving Impact ‘keeper Clément Diop a relatively easy night. Saprissa’s last chance was in the 89th minute, when Diop made a diving save to punch away a drive by Mariano Torres.
Captain Jukka Raitala was injured and received treatment on the pitch early in the game. He continued playing, but was replaced at the half by Joel Waterman, an off-season pickup from the Calgary Cavalry.
Waterman received a yellow card, which produced a free kick for Torres from 25 yards out. Bolanos broke out of the wall to get his head on the ball, but his shot went over the bar.
Tempers flared on occasion and two Saprissa players, David Guzman and Aubrey David, were handed yellow cards in the first half.
Next up for Montreal is a quarter-final matchup against the winner of the series between the Seattle Sounders and Honduran club Olimpia. The teams drew 2-2 in the first leg and the second leg will be played Friday in Seattle.
The Impact will be back at Olympic Stadium Saturday to open the 2020 MLS season against the New England Revolution (3 p.m., TVA Sports).
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