Kristian Nicht answers the call for Montréal ahead of CONCACAF Champions League final

MONTREAL

Kristian Nicht spent the first leg of the CONCACAF Champions League final holed up as the only interested patron in an Indianapolis bar.

Nicht returned to Indy Eleven after spending a month on loan with Montréal during the quarterfinal tie against Pachuca to provide goalkeeping cover. He invested in the experience even though it was a temporary engagement. He wanted to watch his colleagues and his former teammates face Club América. He even prodded the bartender to stay open long enough to watch the 1-1 draw until the final whistle.

At that point and for several days after that stage, Nicht had no idea he might have a part to play in this second leg. He started and played 90 minutes for Indy Eleven in the 1-1 home draw against Carolina Railhawks on Saturday. He thought about how he planned to go away for a few days and spend the upcoming bye weekend in Nashville. 

All of those plans changed when he received word after training on Monday about a potential move to Montréal. The involved parties spent most of the day tying up the terms of the permanent transfer to transform Nicht from interested first-leg spectator to potential second-leg starter (live, Wednesday, 8:00p.m. ET, FOX Sports 2, FOX Sports Go).

“Everything that happened with me and Montréal in the last four months was always kind of crazy and always kind of short-term and short notice,” Nicht explained during a press conference at Olympic Stadium on Tuesday. “I’m getting used to it, getting a call from Montréal and saying, Kristian, get ready in four hours. I can pack my luggage pretty quickly now. It’s business as usual over the past four months, nothing too crazy.”

The bonds forged during the extended training camp in Mexico eventually prompted the Impact to ask Nicht to pack his bags once again to help out in a time of need. 

Montréal scoured high and low to reinforce the goalkeeping options available after Evan Bush received his second yellow card of the knockout stage and triggered a one-match suspension during the waning stages of that draw last Wednesday. 

Bush’s enforced absence and Eric Kronberg’s appearances for Sporting Kansas City in the group stage left Impact boss Frank Klopas with recovering Canadian national teamer Maxime Crépeau (shoulder) and on-loan FC Edmonton goalkeeper John Smits as his only available choices for the second leg.

Montréal may have acquired a cup-tied goalkeeper to serve as the number two behind Bush during the winter, but the Impact at least boasted the good sense to leave a roster spot open in case of emergency and resisted the urge to fill the final berth with an academy goalkeeper ahead of the first leg. Bush’s supension — upheld after an appeal — certainly fell into that category.

Klopas and the Impact reached out to potential MLS options — Chicago goalkeeper Sean Johnson surfaced as one of those alternatives on Sunday, but Fire coach Frank Yallop said MLS scuppered a potential move early in the process during his weekly press conference on Monday — and surveyed other potential alternatives in a bid to register another goalkeeper before the 8:00p.m. ET deadline on Monday. Nicht eventually emerged as the best case scenario given his familiarity with the team and the time constraints involved.

“Kristian is someone that was with us in the beginning,” Klopas said. “We know him really well. He knows the team very well. I’m not going to lie to you: We looked at a lot of different options. In the end, we acquired him and he fits really well within our group.”

If Nicht receives the nod ahead of Crépeau as expected, then he must use that familiarity and his own experience to cope with the situation at hand. Nicht, 33, knows how to cope with big crowds and big occasions from his time in the Bundesliga, though he is new to matches of this magnitude. He also understands how to function behind an Impact rearguard with questions at right back with Hassoun Camara and Victor Cabrera both in contention.

“For us to have him come in, it’s normal,” Impact defender Bakary Soumaré said. “Not only is he a guy that came in and did well for us, but he’s a guy that has really been a part of this team. He’s not just a goalkeeper that we bring in for games. When he came with us to Pachuca, you can feel it, he’s a guy that’s there. He wants to be a part of the team. He wants to be a part of the adventure.”

The past few months and the past few hours certainly fall into that category. The time to place the shift from interested bar patron to potential starting goalkeeper in a continental final is off in the distance. He is off the stool now, ready to do whatever he can to ensure this entire experience ends with the trophy in his hands on Wednesday night.

“I don’t think really you can process that and actually realize what would happen,” Nicht said. “I’ve been in the business long enough to know it’s possible. Whatever happens, happens tomorrow. I’m ready.”