Stars sit out Sounders-Impact match

don.ruiz@thenewstribune.comMarch 23, 2014 

Sounders midfielder Clint Dempsey will miss the match against the Montreal Impact as part of a two-game suspension for hitting a Toronto FC player below the belt.

JOE NICHOLSON /USA TODAY

The show will go on, but without two of its brightest stars.

The Montreal Impact announced Saturday that its once-delayed Major League Soccer home opener with Seattle Sounders FC will be played at 1 p.m. Sunday at Olympic Stadium.

The game had been postponed 24 hours due to accumulations of snow on the stadium roof. The weather eased on Saturday, and when safety protocols were met the Sunday start was confirmed.

However, each team will play without its highest-profile player.

Sounders designated player Clint Dempsey will begin a two-game suspension handed down by the league Friday for violent conduct against Toronto last weekend.

“It is what it is, so we just have to deal with it,” coach Sigi Schmid said. “It just means it’s an opportunity for somebody else.”

Meanwhile, the Impact will be without star forward Marco Di Vaio, who will serve the last of his three-game suspension dating to the 2013 playoffs. Di Vaio led Montreal with 20 goals last season.

“A cold-blooded sniper is probably the best way to describe him,” Schmid said. “He’s a guy who with very few chances buries things and makes the most of it. ... But they’re still a very good team. Felipe Martins is a very dangerous player coming out of midfield. Justin Mapp causes problems coming off the dribble. Andrew Wenger has been there now for a few years; he’s growing in confidence. So there are still a lot of guys you’ve got to worry about.”

Schmid also worries about Montreal coming into its home opener with a 0-2-0 record after one-goal losses at Dallas and Houston.

He does not worry about the Sounders’ 0-2 record against the Impact. It’s too small a sample, he said.

The Sounders lost, 1-0, to the Impact last season in Seattle after being pounded, 4-1, in their only previous visit to Montreal – a 2012 meeting that marked the opening of renovated Saputo Stadium.

On Friday, the Sounders got their first look inside of Olympic Stadium, which was built for the 1976 summer Olympics and served as the home of the Montreal Expos baseball team.

However, one Sounder is already familiar with the place: Lamar Neagle of Federal Way, who played in Montreal during its 2012 expansion season.

“The turf is tough,” Neagle said. “It’s an older stadium, obviously. It was great atmosphere in the beginning of the year, though. We had tons of fans coming out the first couple of games there. Bigger field. Just stuff that we have to adapt to.”

Neagle was with the Impact when it made a 12-16-6 debut in MLS. It was an encouraging start for the club but was seen as a dip in the career of Neagle, who scored two goals for the Impact after having scored five with the Sounders the previous season and who would go on to score eight in his return to Seattle last season.

“Another year to learn, another year to try to get experiences,” Neagle said. “... I definitely played a different role on that team than I do now. It’s just adding to my versatility, it feels like.”

In their second season, the Impact progressed to 14-13-7, good for fifth in the Eastern Conference and the team’s first trip to the playoff.

Montreal kept the core of that team together for this season, although the goals again have grown.

“The first year we wanted to be competitive,” said Richard Legendre, the club’s executive vice president. “The second year we wanted to be in the playoffs. We reached both objectives. I think now this year we want to be competitive in the playoffs.

“We’re still seeding more than harvesting. And of course, what we see in Seattle is just mind-boggling. It’s just amazing and we’re very happy about it because it only shows that it’s feasible.”

SOUNDERS GAMEDAY

SEATTLE SOUNDERS FC (1-1-0; 3 POINTS) AT MONTREAL IMPACT (0-2-0; 0)

1 P.M. SUNDAY, OLYMPIC STADIUM, MONTREAL.

TV: JOEtv (locally), Root (regionally). Radio: 97.3-FM, 99.3-FM (Spanish).

Head to head: The Impact leads 2-0-0, including a 4-1 result in the only previous meeting in Montreal. This is the first match at Olympic Stadium and the only scheduled meeting this season.

Notes: This game was postponed 24 hours due to snow accumulation on the roof of Olympic Stadium. The weather eased enough Saturday for the stadium to pass safety protocols. ... Seattle will be without Clint Dempsey, who will serve the first of a two-game suspension for violent conduct last weekend against Toronto. Montreal will play without forward Marco Di Vaio and midfielder Andres Romero, who are serving the final game of their three-match suspensions lingering from the 2013 playoffs. ... Montreal midfielder Sanna Nyassi, who played with Seattle from 2009-10, is out with a knee injury. Sounders midfielder Lamar Neagle played for Montreal in 2012. ... The Impact is 1-0-1 in home openers and 4-1-3 all-time at Olympic Stadium. ... This is the Sounders’ first road match. ... Ticket sales have topped 25,000. ... The referee is Armando Villarreal.

Quotable: “Montreal is probably not happy being 0-2. (And) it’s the home opener: It’s always a little bit tougher to play a team’s home opener.” – Sounders coach Sigi Schmid.

Next: The Columbus Crew visits CenturyLink Field at 7 p.m. Saturday.

don.ruiz@thenewstribune.com blog.thenewstribune.com/soccer don.ruiz@thenewstribune.com

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