Last season was the first for the Montreal Impact, owned by Joey Saputo, in the MLS. Major League Soccer is the highest level of professional soccer in North America. The league is made up of 19 teams with 16 American and 3 Canadian (Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver). Usually when a team comes into a league due to expansion expectations are low, but this is Montreal and we do not tolerate losing very well. Coached by Jesse Marsch, a former player in the MLS, the team exceeded everyone’s expectations. They were competitive and just ended up out of the playoffs.
In all respects (reasonable ones, at least) the Impact’s first season was a successful one. Not only did they field a quality side, but attendance was good. It started off well in the Olympic Stadium (due to renovations to Saputo Stadium) with over 59,000 showing up at the opening game and then over 60,000 at a game against the Los Angeles Galaxy featuring David Beckham. Even when the team moved to Saputo Stadium the numbers stayed up and that had everything to do with the quality of the play.
After stumbling a little out of the gate, Montreal became a competitive team. World class players like Marco Di Vaio and Allesandro Nesta, both from Italy, were brought on and really solidified the squad. Another big piece of the puzzle was the trade of starting goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts for Troy Perkins. Perkins strong play, communication skills and leadership seemed to settle the team right down. After finishing the season strong expectations have risen for season number two.
During the off season a couple of changes happened with the Impact. First of all and to the shock of many head coach Jesse Marsch was let go and Swiss native Marco Schallibaum was hired. The belief is that the experienced Schallibaum will instill a more European style of play. Sporting Director Nick De Santis traveled around scouting players and did sign a couple of new guys including midfielder Andrea Pisanu of Italy and forward Andrés Romero of Argentina. Then in the SuperDraft the team drafted and then signed midfielder Blake Smith and keeper Brad Stuver. With the new players, a full season of Di Vaio, Perkins and Nesta and hoping that defenders Matteo Ferrari and Nelson Rivas will stay healthy the Impact will be a team in contention for the playoffs.
The Impact’s first game is in Seattle on March 2nd. Their first home game will be once again at the Olympic Stadium and is on March 16th versus Toronto FC.
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