The Sounders FC will square off against the Montreal Impact on Saturday in the MLS regular season opener.
Here are four things to know heading into the match.
Plenty of History
Seattle and Montreal may have met just once at the MLS level, with the Impact laying a 4-1 defeat on the Sounders last season at the re-opening of Saputo Stadium in Montreal. Their rivalry goes back much further though. The two teams met with regularity in the North American Soccer League and the USL, but it really took off in 2004.
That is when the Sounders and Impact became bitter foes in the second division. The Sounders traveled to Montreal and dropped the final 2-0, but got their revenge one year later, when they met in the semifinals and the Sounders posted a 4-3 victory in the series on their way to the 2005 USL title. Then, in Seattle’s final season in the USL in 2008, it was the Impact that put them out of the playoffs in the first round with a 4-3 series win.
Montreal has four players in their team that hail from Italy and they all play prominent roles for the second-year club.
Forward Marco Di Vaio came to the Impact at midseason in 2012 and finished the year with five goals and three assists in 17 matches. They also feature on-loan winger Andrea Pisanu and defenders Alessandro Nesta and Matteo Ferrari. While their Italian roots do a lot to shape the Impact, head coach Marco Schallibaum is Swiss and he will put his style into the team as well.
Thus far, that has meant a style of possession play that will require patience from the Sounders if they wish to break them down.
This is our house
The Sounders are looking to start the season strong, as they did last year when they opened the slate with a 7-1-1 record. In each of their first four seasons, opening the season has meant a packed house at CenturyLink Field and that’s one thing the Sounders are looking forward to on Saturday.
However, they are also looking to send those fans home happy. They have emerged victorious in three of their four season-opening matches and will look to continue the winning trend against Montreal.
“Our thing is always to start the season well,” Sounders FC head coach Sigi Schmid said, noting the importance of winning at any point in the season. “Three points on March 2 are just as valuable as three points in October. You want to get points whenever you can and you certainly want to win your games at home.”
Replacing the irreplaceable
Last year, Michael Gspurning was given the seemingly impossible task of following Kasey Keller as the goalkeeper for the Sounders FC. He responded in great form with a league-best 0.73 goals against average and helped the Sounders reach the Western Conference championship series for the first time in club history.
Seattle is hoping to have similar results in replacing the lost production of Fredy Montero – out on loan to Millonarios in Colombia.
Montero netted 47 goals and 34 assists over four seasons, both tops on Seattle’s all-time list. Not all of that production is expected to come from one player, but with Mario Martinez taking on a bigger role, Steve Zakuani returning to the left wing, Shalrie Joseph joining the mix, Mauro Rosales continuing to play a leadership role, Brad Evans is the consummate team player and Eddie Johnson is as fit and motivated as he’s ever been.
“Over 90 minutes, with the talent that we have in the attack, we’re pretty confident as a team that we can score goals,” Johnson said.
At 7:30 at CenturyLink Field, they will get the chance to show it.