Montreal, a new enemy to the north
Riding the popularity of Toronto FC and Vancouver Whitecaps FC, Major League Soccer announced the Montreal Impact as its nineteenth club to begin play in 2012. The Impact began the season on the road in Vancouver, suffering a 2-0 defeat at the hands of its Canadian counterparts. Last week, the club played in front of a record-breaking 58,000+ at Olympic Stadium for the Impact's inaugural MLS home opener against the Chicago Fire. Montreal came away with a 1-1 draw behind a 56th minute Davy Arnaud tally to earn its first MLS point.
The Impact's roster is highlighted by 2010 MLS Goalkeeper of the Year Donovan Ricketts and its captain Arnaud. In January, the team selected forward Andrew Wenger out of Duke University as the number one overall pick of the 2012 MLS Superdraft. Wenger has come on as a substitute in each of Montreal's first two matches.
Montreal selected left-back Josh Gardner in the 2011 MLS Expansion draft last November from the Crew. Gardner contributed two goals and two assists to the Black & Gold's 2011 campaign.
OFFSEASON WHEELING AND DEALING
The Impact made headlines in the offseason by selecting Brian Ching from the Houston Dynamo as the first pick in the 2011 MLS Expansion Draft. The selection spurred an offseason soap opera in which Ching claimed he would retire if he couldn't play in Houston. The 2006 MLS Cup MVP eventually showed up to Montreal's preseason camp, only to be traded back to Houston for a conditional draft pick after about a month of training.
Montreal won the rights to US striker Eddie Johnson through allocation as the former Fulham player returned to MLS. The Impact then dealt Johnson to Seattle Sounders FC in exchange for Mike Fucito and Lamar Neagle.
The Impact have also made a splash in international acquisitions, signing Inter Milan defender Nelson Rivas, Brazilian midfielder Felipe Martins, and most recently, former Italy International Matteo Ferrari.
Montreal has remained a magnet for summer transfer rumors surrounding the likes of Alessandro Del Piero and Michael Ballack.
A BRADLEY DISCIPLE
Impact skipper Jesse Marsch is in his first year as a head coach after a successful 13 year MLS playing career in which he became the first player in League history to win three MLS Cups. Marsch follows in the footsteps of Bob Bradley, whom he played for at every level.
Bradley, the current head coach of the Egyptian National Team, coached Marsch while at the collegiate level at Princeton. After his days coaching the Tigers, Bradley became assistant coach at D.C. United for MLS's inaugural season, making sure Bruce Arena drafted Marsch. When Bradley left Washington to coach the expansion Chicago Fire in 1998, the Racine, Wisconsin native followed Bradley to the Windy City where he played until 2002. In 2006, Marsch and Bradley were reunited at Chivas USA for a season. The following year, in Bradley's first year as head coach of the U.S. Men's National Team, he called-up Marsch for a cap in a 4-1 victory against China. Following his retirement from MLS, Marsch was hired by Bradley as an assistant coach in the team's 2010 World Cup and 2011 Gold Cup campaigns.
Upon the Impact's decision to hire Marsch to lead the French-Canadian side last August, Bradley told MLSsoccer.com, "Montreal has made an excellent choice with (Marsch's) appointment.”
“Throughout his career as both a player and a coach, Jesse has demonstrated excellent leadership ability and knowledge of the game.”
Just two matches into his head coaching career, the comparisons of Marsch and his mentor are obvious. Like Bradley, Marsch employs a defensive-minded approach, looking to force mistakes from his opponents to spring counter-attacks on the wings with Arnaud and Justin Mapp.