International friendlies have been confirmed and the first Designated Player signed. A newly expanded stadium will be unveiled too, and it all couldn't come at a better time.
With the Expos long gone, the Canadiens not making the playoffs, and the Allouettes not starting their season until the end of June, the Impact have been the main sporting attraction in Montreal over the last few weeks.
The novelty of MLS, a couple strong performances, David Beckham’s memorable appearance with the LA Galaxy in front of a record breaking crowd of over 60,000 at the Olympic Stadium, and head coach Jesse Marsch’s sincere and enduring attempt at learning French, all have given the Impact a pretty good vibe so far.
Barring the Grand Prix weekend - and it is just a weekend - the Impact have the stage to themselves for another month, and Impact president Joey Saputo still has a whole lot more to showcase.
“Phase 1 of our season is over,” said Saputo via his Twitter account on Monday. “Thanks to all supporters and partners of the Olympic park. Ready for a week full of announcements. Stay tuned!”
The first announcements came earlier this week as the club confirmed a friendly match between the Impact and French giants Olympique Lyonnais on July 24 at Saputo Stadium, as well as a preseason friendly match on July 31 at the Olympic Stadium between this year’s Serie A champion Juventus and Ligue 1 runners up Paris Saint-Germain.
As much as these games promote the visiting teams more than they do the Impact, anything that gets people excited about the sport, or that provides an opportunity for people to come out and get acquainted with the Impact for the first time, can only be positive.
“It is important for us to organize international matches like we’ve done in the past,” Saputo said in a press release. ”We want to continue to build Montreal as an important market in North America for international games.”
The Montreal Impact’s biggest announcement so far came on Thursday morning with the signing of former Bologna striker Marco Di Vaio as the club’s first ever designated player. Di Vaio will arrive in Montreal on Sunday and will be introduced in a press conference on Monday. Though the Rome native would only be eligible to play after June 27, announcing his signing now will get a lot more attention than an announcement at the end of June when many Montrealers begin to fix their focus on the NHL draft and free agency.
Case and point: The news of the Italian’s signing has already gone viral on social media.
The Impact will also likely unveil their newly expanded Saputo Stadium next week. The new look soccer specific stadium will have an additional 7000 seats - taking the total capacity to 20341 - a new roof that will cover a third of the seats, and a total of 40 corporate suites.
Both the signing of Di Vaio, and the completion of the Saputo Stadium expansion were initially envisioned to arrive much sooner. The Impact were hoping to have a Designated Player at the start of the season, and the expansion of Saputo Stadium was supposed to be completed by April, but these delays have proved to be a blessing in disguise.
The prospect of a new league gave enough fanfare to carry the Impact through the first stretch of the season, and having all the eggs in one basket at the start would not have had the same result as the slow in coming crescendo that Impact fans have had to observe instead.
Saputo, whether deliberate or not, has saved his best cards for last and to great effect.
Nick Sabetti covers the Montreal Impact for Goal.com Canada.