The Montreal Impact will take centre stage on Saturday when they open up their new stadium against the Seattle Sounders, and they need to make the most of it.
“I think this is one of the premier venues in the league,” Impact head coach Jesse Marsch told the Montreal media in a stadium visit on Wednesday. “It has everything that you’re looking for in a soccer stadium: it’s smaller so it should have a really intimate atmosphere, the stands are really close to the field and the noise will stay inside.
“Once we put all our passionate fans in here, I think it will be a great venue.”
More broadcast booths, more boutiques, more concessions, over 7000 new seats, 18 new corporate loges and even the two highest sports-related lighting posts in Canada are all part of the expansion. But what gives the stadium real charm is the new roof that goes all around the east, west and south ends of the field. With the already existing roof on the north end, a total of 6,984 fans will not need an umbrella on rainy days.
Of course, there are some things that remain the same. Though the grass is new, it’s the same old 110 x 70 metre field and the Impact will still need play well and win games, especially at home, because getting points on the road isn’t by any means easy – the Impact have only won once in eight games out of town.
With two wins, two draws and a loss in five matches at the Olympic Stadium, the Impact have fared pretty well on its home turf so far, and it will be imperative for the Impact to continue to thrive in Montreal, especially because tickets have been a bit slow in selling.
While they had over 58,000 in attendance for the season opener at the Olympic Stadium against the Chicago Fire and over 60,000 against the LA Galaxy, only a little over 8,000 season tickets have been sold, and the club announced earlier this week that there were still 4,000 tickets left for the Saputo Stadium opener against the Seattle Sounders on Saturday.
Vice President Richard Legendre admitted to reporters during Tuesday’s training session that he wasn’t expecting ticket sales for the new stadium to be as slow as they have been.
“I have to say, we’re a bit surprised,” said Legendre. “People think it’s already sold out or that the stadium isn’t ready and yet it’s the opposite: the stadium is ready and, for the moment, it isn’t sold out yet.”
But appeasing the local fans and climbing the standings aren’t the only reasons why the Impact need to shine on Saturday. With many fans throughout MLS tuning in to get a first look at the Impact’s new venue, a positive result would also send a message across the league that playing in Montreal won't be a walk in the park.
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Following Tuesday’s training session, Impact midfielder and local native Patrice Bernier stressed the same point.
“We've got to compete like we did at the Big O, but now we’re on grass and this is our home,” said Bernier. “From the first second on, we have to set the tempo and show people that here in Montreal it’s going to be really tough to come and get one point.”
Saturday’s game against Seattle isn’t an easy one to begin the stadium with - the Sounders are one of the best sides in the league - but if the Impact want to really set the tone for the rest of the season, they need to give it their all and get a result.
Nick Sabetti covers the Montreal Impact for Goal.com Canada.