The Montreal Impact roster is stuffed with former Sounders, and that’s not fully by accident.
While coach Jesse Marsch says no single player was brought in because of the Seattle connection, the Impact admits it studied Sounders FC as an expansion model.
“We spent half a day with the organization to learn more about it because we knew it was a great success story; it’s an amazing success story,” said Richard Legendre, executive vice president of the Impact. “It showed us also a team that was in the same league (USL) as us in the past, and having this type of success was very motivational in a way.”
When the expansion draft rolled around, Montreal picked defender James Riley from Seattle, but later traded him away. They also acquired Mike Fucito in a trade with Seattle, before moving him on to Portland.
Even after those moves, four former Sounders still wear the blue Impact crest: Tyson Wahl, Miguel Montano, Sanna Nyassi and Lamar Neagle of Federal Way.
“It’s good to see familiar faces,” Wahl said at the start of the season. “The Sounders had a really deep team. They’re only allowed to protect a certain number of guys. They had a really deep team, so they had a lot of players to choose from. It was wise (for Montreal) to look at that team, and that’s what they did.”
There also are a couple of second-generation Seattle connections, as Impact defender Josh Gardner played for the USL Sounders from 2007-08, and goalkeepers coach Preston Burpo was in goal for the USL Sounders from 1997-2005.
“You’d have to take them one by one, because that’s how we approached it: looking at each one of them, and then the kind of player that they are and how we think they fit with our team,” Marsch said of Montreal’s collection of ex-Sounders. “There is something to be said for being with a good club and playing in front of a big crowd. … They’ve played in a lot of big games in front of big fans and everything else. So I think that’s a factor. But more than that, it’s how they fit with the team.”
The formula has not re-created the Sounders’ on-field expansion success. Montreal is 3-7-3 and is eighth in the Eastern Conference.
“There are definitely some similarities,” Fucito said of his two expansion experiences. “But also it’s a lot different too, just being its own unique city and team. It’s a completely different group of guys. (The Impact is) going to have some of the same struggles, I think. But I also think the potential is there.”
Since Seattle’s expansion season, four teams have joined MLS: Philadelphia Union, Portland Timbers, Vancouver Whitecaps FC and Montreal Impact. Seattle is 1-0-2 in its first match against those clubs.
The Sounders scrimmaged the Pierce County-based Sounders U-23 on Tuesday in Tukwila. “We want to get them back into the rhythm of playing, so we wanted to bring out our U23’s, and mix-and-match play was important for us,” coach Sigi Schmid said. “You want to make sure the first time you get thumped or first time you get thrown to the ground isn’t in the Montreal game.” … Participating in the scrimmage were midfielder Steve Zakuani and goalkeeper Josh Ford. “It was the first time Josh has been able to jump into a game situation for us. … He handled stuff well,” Schmid said. “Steve did all right. There was a little more defensive work for him because his team didn’t have the ball as much, so that was good.”