Montreal Impact could extend Champs League run
The Montreal Impact will look to get their season off to a flying start with a busy week involving both a CONCACAF game and an MLS match.
Montreal began their season with two important draws in the CONCACAF Champions League against Pachuca, which have pushed them through to the final four against Costa Rica’s Alajuelense thanks to away goals. The club did lose their first MLS game to DC United 1-0, but one loss should not be overstated.
Their week begins with Wednesday’s opening leg against Alajuelense in Montreal, at the famed Olympique Stadium – not their smaller, and usual home venue of Saputo Stadium. According to TSN, over 28,000 tickets had already been sold to the game as of Monday. As TSN’s Noel Butler commented, Montreal fans are notorious for buying their tickets at the last minute, so it is expected the crowd might edge up nearer to 50,000.
In any case, the game’s popularity mirrors its importance to the team’s fortunes this season. Impact fans have not had much to cheer about in recent years. Their 2012 season ended just outside of a playoff spot, which is alright for a franchise team. Their 2013 season brought a spark of hope, with Montreal earning their first playoff berth. The end of the season left a sour taste in fans’ mouth, as the Impact were neutered by the Houston Dynamo in the Eastern Conference play-in game by a score of 3-0, and the Impact had an altogether embarrassing game.
2014 brought another season without playoffs, and the retirement of Marco Di Vaio, whose 20 goals in 2013 gave the Impact such a cutting edge. Di Vaio is the club’s all-time leading scorer with 40 goals, followed by Patrice Bernier and Felipe at 14 goals. Felipe is the all-time assists leader at 25, which is worrying as he has also left the team this off-season.
Losing the club’s top goal scorer and top playmaker will not be easy. Montreal has bolstered some positions well, such as centre-back and central midfield. Laurent Ciman, from Standard Liege, is a massive addition at centre-back and should provide great stability for the club. Marco Donadel and Nigel Reo-Coker add steady presences in the club’s midfield, which should help defensively.
It will be great to watch what Ignacio Piatti can do this season, considering all the promise he shown when he arrived at Montreal late last season. Piatti scored four goals and added an assist in six games, and as the team’s only designated player, he will be expected to continue to be prolific for the club.
A deep run into the Champions League would give uncertain and indifferent Montreal fans a chance to get behind their team, but another playoff appearance would also go a long way with a fan base that is expecting success as the club grows into being a fourth-year MLS franchise.
The Impact will face the New England Revolution on Saturday, which will give them a chance to earn some points in the MLS and take aim at a playoff run.