During an event at a local bar early this season, Sounders FC supporters stood side-by-side with players to raise money for a local charity. They also all kept one eye turned toward the television, watching the Montreal Impact open their inaugural MLS season with a 2-0 defeat at the hands of the Vancouver Whitecaps.
The start to Montreal's season was of particular interest to Sounders supporters as eight former Seattle players have at one point been on the Montreal roster already in their move to MLS this year.
That includes two former USL Sounders and three who have since been traded away from Montreal.
On Saturday night, the Sounders FC will meet those familiar faces on the Impact for the first time at Saputo Stadium, opening the doors on the renovated stadium.
“If you lose to somebody you don’t know, it’s not a big deal,” Sounders FC head coach Sigi Schmid said. “If you lose to somebody that you know and you talk to, it makes it a little more at stake that way.”
After the Impact started the season slow, they now have eight points from their last six games and the former Sounders on their roster are contributing to their recent success.
Sanna Nyassi was one of the Sounders FC’s first signings in 2008 and was loaned to the USL side for the latter part of that season. Nyassi came into his own in his second MLS season in Seattle, with two goals and three assists. He was taken in the 2010 expansion draft by the Whitecaps, then traded to the Colorado Rapids, where he continued his climb in MLS with five goals and five assists in 2011. Then Montreal took him in the expansion draft last off-season and he has one goal and one assist in 12 matches for the Impact.
Lamar Neagle enjoyed a breakthrough season in 2011. After one season on the bench in Seattle in 2009 and an MVP season with the Charleston Battery in 2010, Neagle was poised for a triumphant return to his native Puget Sound and delivered with five goals and three assists, including a hat trick against the Columbus Crew for the Sounders last year. He was traded to Montreal along with Mike Fucito, who has since been traded to Portland, in exchange for Eddie Johnson. Neagle has two assists in 11 appearances this seasons.
Miguel Montano saw limited action in his first two MLS seasons with the Sounders and was loaned to the second-division Impact last year. He has now made his way into the rotation with Montreal, starting and subbing into their last two matches.
Tyson Wahl had a goal and three assists in his best of three seasons in Seattle last year after coming to the Sounders in the 2008 expansion draft and was traded to Montreal after the 2011 expansion draft for allocation money. Wahl has started 10 of 13 games for the Impact and has been a consistent contributor on defense.
“We know a fair amount of all those players, so for us it’s just looking at how they play together,” said Sounders FC midfielder Brad Evans, who roomed with Wahl on the road for three seasons with Seattle. “This will bring a little bit more out of them. They’ll be playing with a little bit of passion.”
Former USL Sounder Josh Gardner played in 2007 and 2008 in Seattle. He would play two more seasons in the USL with the Carolina Railhawks before signing with the Columbus Crew in 2010 and then being selected by Montreal in the expansion draft. He started Montreal’s first five matches, but has not made an appearance since.
Additionally, goalkeeper coach Preston Burpo spent nine seasons with Seattle in the A-League/USL era, winning the championship in 2005.
“It’s hard to play guys that you played many years with,” said Seattle defender Zach Scott. “They know our tendencies, hopefully we know theirs. It’s going to make for a tight game, but hopefully an exciting one as well.”
Adding to the intrigue of the match is the opening of Saputo Stadium. Originally opened in 2008, renovations were made over the off-season to expand capacity to over 20,000 for the new MLS club. The Impact played their first five home games of the season at Olympic Stadium.
Kickoff is slated for 4:30 Pacific with television coverage on KONG 6/16 and the radio broadcast live on 97.3 KIRO FM.