New league, new coach, new international-calibre striker, new logo, new uniforms and an even newer new stadium – you’d almost be inclined to think that there was some kind of theme to the 2012 season of Montreal’s much-loved professional soccer franchise, the Montreal Impact…
Indeed, the spirit of renewal was certainly in the house – or rather, the stadium – when the Montreal Impact held their home opener on March 17 against the Chicago Fire in front of a raucous, record-setting crowd at their temporary home in the Olympic Stadium. (Attendance at the boisterous season kick-off came in at 58,912, topping the stadium’s previous attendance record.)
In fact, the atmosphere at the game – which played to a 1-1 draw despite some exciting late-game scoring chances by the Impact – was befitting the club’s new status as the most recent addition to Major League Soccer (MLS), North America’s highest level of professional soccer. Formed in 1996, MLS is comprised of 19 teams – 16 American and 3 Canadian, including Montreal. MLS teams have had success in recent years drawing players from top-tier European leagues (most famously David Beckham, who recently re-signed to the L.A. Galaxy), and the Montreal Impact are no exception.
Italian striker Bernardo Corradi joins the Impact’s offensive line for what the team hopes will be a statement-making inaugural MLS season. The 35-year-old, 6-foot-3 forward who has played more than 250 games in Italy’s Serie A is expected to add both power and experience to the club. The new player joins new head coach Jesse Marsch, another veteran presence. Marsch – a former mid-fielder who played 14 seasons in MLS before retiring – was assistant coach for the U.S. national soccer team during that team’s eighth place finish at the FIFA 2010 World Cup in South Africa.
A couple of notable esoteric changes are also in evidence as the team rolls out sleek and tasteful blue-and-white jerseys to accompany the new blue, white, black and silver logo, which takes the form of a shield prominently featuring a fleur-de-lys (Quebec’s provincial emblem) surrounded by four stars (representing Montreal’s four founding peoples: the French, Irish, Scottish and English).
And finally, and perhaps most excitingly for live soccer fans who like to watch “the beautiful game” under both sun and stars, the Impact’s recently constructed outdoor pitch, Saputo Stadium (which opened in 2008), is nearing the end of renovations intended to boost seating from 13,034 to 20,341, a measure of the team’s resounding success amongst soccer fans of all stripes. Matches will move from the adjacent Olympic Stadium to Saputo Stadium, if all goes according to plan, by late spring.
Guest blogger Jamie O’Meara is a Montreal editor and journalist who covers arts, culture and music. Formerly the editor in chief of Hour Magazine, he is now an editor at Roverarts.com.