The Montreal Impact make their first visit to AB Soccer Park on Saturday night July 10 to face AC St. Louis. The Impact, who will be playing in MLS in 2012, are 4-5-5 so far in USSF D2 play this season. They are in third place in the NASL Conference behind Vancouver and Carolina. Despite this being the first meeting between the two franchises, though, there are several connections between the two regions. Holy Family Catholic Church, in nearby Cahokia, Illinois was founded in 1699 as part of the Catholic diocese of Montreal. The St. Louis Cardinals were the visiting team in the first game in Montreal Expos history, on April 14, 1969, at Jarry Park. And the St. Louis Blues and Montreal Canadiens battled in two successive Stanley Cup Finals, with the Canadiens winning both following the 1967-1968 and 1968-1969 seasons.
The Impact are owned by Joey Saputo and were founded in 1992. Since the reorganization of second division professional soccer in North America in 2005, the Impact have had two regular season first place finishes and were the USL-1 playoff champions last season. Team colors are blue and white, and the team has averaged over 12,000 fans per game at Saputo Stadium the last two years. Perhaps the most glorious moment in franchise history was the February 2009 CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal against Mexico’s Santos Laguna, where over 55,000 Impact fans jammed Olympic Stadium to see the Impact defeat Santos Laguna 2-0. Montreal’s biggest USSF D2 rival are the Rochester Rhinos.
The Impact are coached by Marc Dos Santos, a 33-year-old native of Brossard, Quebec, who grew up in Portugal and lived in Mozambique before returning to Quebec seven years ago. Dos Santos was named interim coach of the Impact in May, 2009, following the dismissal of coach John Limniatis. Dos Santos signed a two-year contract extension in November, 2009 following the Impact’s successful season. Dos Santos had been an assistant to Limniatis and prior to that was coach of Montreal’s reserve team, the Trois-Riveries Attak.
Montreal’s season so far has been hindered by its inability to score goals, as they have only netted 13 times in 14 league games. Antiguan forward Peter Byers has started nine games for the Impact this season, but has only scored one goal, as have other Impact veteran forwards Panamanian Roberto Brown and Cuban Eduardo Sebrango. Midfielder Tony Donatelli leads the team with four goals, and he and fellow midfielder Rocco Placentino seem to have provided most of the Impact’s offense this season. No wonder there is a cry among some Impact fans for the team to sign much-travelled Canadian international forward Ali Gerba, who has had two previous stints with the Impact among his play in England, Germany, Scandinavia and MLS. Gerba has 15 goals in 29 appearances for the Canadian national team.
Rounding out the Montreal lineup are midfielders Leonardo di Lorenzo, Filipe Soares, Patrick Leduc,David Testo and Phillipe Billy, while captain Nevio Pizzolitto, Adam Braz, Stephen DeRoux, Hicham Aaboubou and Simon Gatti have seen most of the playing time on the backline. Canadian goalkeeper Srdjan Djekanovic has been seeing regular duty lately since Matt Jordan’s injury.
For Dale Schilly’s AC St. Louis squad, Saturday night will be their last home game until Wednesday July 28th, when they host Portland. In between, AC St. Louis will be playing Wednesday and Saturdays against NSC Minnesota Stars, the league leading Austin Aztex, Montreal again and Crystal Palace Baltimore. AC St. Louis got a point in Vancouver Thursday night, and can build on that with a result Saturday against the Impact. As we approach the halfway point of the season, AC St. Louis has proven to be respectable defensively, decent in the midfield but weak in scoring and taking shots. Hopefully midfielders Brad Stisser and Mike Ambersley will be available, and perhaps defender Anthony O’Garro will be able to suit up as he has been recovering from injury. Let’s get out and support the team Saturday night….the weather should be mild (for a St. Louis summer night) and cheer on a result that Coach Schilly and the players can build upon for their upcoming road games. GO AC !!!