So here we are with the Montreal Impact playing in one of the most significant matches in MLS history, only they're about to trot out a goalie who has never appeared in an MLS match. First stringer Evan Bush received a questionable yellow late in first leg that will cause him to be suspended for the second leg, so he's out. Second stringer Eric Kronberg is cup-tied to Sporting Kansas City and hasn't been eligible to play for Montreal in the tournament this year so he's out. Third stringer Maxime Crépeau may be the keeper of the future, but he hasn't been healthy so him getting the call seems unlikely. So that leaves two players currently on loan to Montreal: John Smits and Kristian Nicht. So who are these guys and does Montreal have a snowball's chance in Mexico to bring the title to MLS?
Smits' story is an interesting one as he was the goalie for FC Edmonton, the team that nearly ended Montreal's historic run before it ever started. Now 26, Smits has spent the last three seasons with FC Edmonton in the NASL (the second tier of US Soccer, one below MLS). In 2014 he was named the Golden Glove Winner (goalkeeper of the year) in the NASL. Smits has served as a back-up for Bush in the tournament, but hasn't played.
Of the two rent-a-keepers, Nicht is the more experienced boasting a 16 year professional career and is now 33. He's played professionally in Germany and Norway before coming to the U.S. and eventually settling in with Indy Eleven. Once upon a time he was the Bundesliga 2 Goalkeeper of the Year in 2006 and started 17 Bundesliga matches during the 2006-2007 campaign for Alemannia Aachen. He was the 2012 USL PRO League (Third Tier of US Soccer) Goalkeeper of the Year after posting 11 shutouts with the Rochester Rhinos, and last year he started every game for Indy Eleven and was a part of the squad that took the Columbus Crew to extra time before falling 2-1 in the fourth round of the U.S. Open Cup. Nicht also backed up Bush earlier on in the tournament during separate loans, and spent the 2015 presseason with the Impact in Mexico, which likely makes him the front runner for a starting spot.
Kickoff is tomorrow night at 8 pm. We'll see who the Impact trot out between the pipes. Either way, Go Impact!