Montreal fell 3-0 to the San Jose Earthquakes on Tuesday, and now need a big victory next week over CD Heredia to stay alive.
"We've done it before," said Impact forward Andrew Wenger. "We feel we can still make a statement."
Goals from Chris Wondolowski, Marvin Chavez and Shea Salinas allowed the Earthquakes (1-2-0) to draw level with the Impact (1-2-0) in their group. Montreal featured a strong starting 11, but the visitors couldn't capitalize on their own offensive chances at Buck Shaw Stadium.
The Impact, coming off a 2-1 loss against Columbus in MLS action last weekend, allowed a pair of key defensive miscues for San Jose to capture its first CCL victory.
"We had the better of the play," said forward Andrew Wenger, "but we just weren't sharp on many instances in the back and in the attacking third and that made the difference. We switched off at a couple of key times."
The odds are against Montreal as Heredia sits atop the table with six points. The Impact have to beat the Guatemalan side next Tuesday and then need a narrow victory by San Jose against Heredia to advance.
A win or tie in Montreal secures Group 5 for Heredia and a trip to next spring's knockout rounds.
"We've been in this situation before just to get into the tournament," said Montreal captain Davy Arnaud. "We needed a big result against Toronto at home and it seems like we are going to need the same thing this Tuesday. It's good to know that we have done it before in a tough game, and there is no reason we can't do it again."
Before that, the Impact play host on Saturday to the Vancouver Whitecaps as Montreal hopes to continue its push to the MLS playoffs. Only after that bit of business will the Impact look ahead the visit of Heredia.
The teams trading good scoring chances during a cagey 10 minutes to start the match as Impact goalkeeper Evan Bush made a foot save on Steven Lenhart's seventh-minute glancing header and defender Jason Hernandez made a sliding block on Wenger's eighth-minute blast.
The Earthquakes broke the deadlock in the 21st minute through a long throw-in by defender Dan Gargan deep in the Impact half of the field. Lenhart met the ball for an uncontested flick-on header at the edge of the six-yard box that reached Wondolowski for the simplest of tap-ins and a 1-0 advantage.
Arnaud picked up a yellow card in the 23rd minute for a take down of Earthquakes midfielder Chavez on a counterattack, but San Jose could not capitalize on the restart. A 30-yard free-kick attempt from Patrice Bernier 10 minutes later forced David Bingham into his first save of the night.
Hassoun Camara, trying to earn his team a chance at an equalizer in the 35th minute, appeared to have been tripped by Justin Morrow in the Earthquakes' penalty box, but Honduran referee Armando Castro instead issued Camara a yellow card for embellishment.
Twice in the last 10 minutes of the first half the Impact had solid chances to find an equalizer.
In the 38th minute, a well-placed cross from Wenger found forward partner Daniele Paponi near the penalty spot, but he one-timed his shot well wide of the intended target.
A stoppage time foray by Arnaud deep along the left touchline gave the Impact captain plenty of space to blast a cross through the six-yard box, but an alert Morrow was present to clear the ball off the goal-line and prevent Justin Mapp from drawing Montreal level.
The Earthquakes doubled their lead in the 57th minute through a brilliant shot from Chavez. After Bernier had weakly cleared a ball from within the Montreal box, Chavez collected with his right foot and volleyed with his left foot a shot out of the reach of Bush and into the upper corner of the net to put San Jose up 2-0.
A yellow card earned for kicking a dead ball out of bounds by Andres Romero in the 62nd minute signalled the Impact's growing frustration. Needing more firepower on offence, the Impact introduced Felipe for Arnaud in the 63rd minute and Marco Di Vaio for Paponi in the 64th minute. Speedster Sanna Nyassi subbed in for Arnaud 10 minutes later.
The changes spurred more in the attacking third from Montreal, but it also left them vulnerable to the counterattack. The home side capitalized in the 84th minute when second-half substitute Salinas powered a shot past through the legs of Bush from close range to push the San Jose lead to 3-0. Montreal never recovered and fell to its second straight CCL defeat.
"Through the run of play, we had the better chances," said Arnaud. "When you go on the road and play against a team like San Jose, you can't afford to give up set piece goals. We created enough tonight and played well enough tonight not to walk out of here losing 3-0."