Impact-Whitecaps FC Preview

The Montreal Impact are ready to become the latest team to make

their MLS debut. Their inaugural opponent knows just how difficult

that can be.

The Impact will play their first game in league history Saturday

night as they visit the Vancouver Whitecaps, who struggled during

their first campaign in 2011.

Montreal will be the league’s 19th team as it kicks off at BC

Place and ninth expansion team to take the pitch since the end of

the 2001 season. The Impact played in various other leagues for

nearly two decades before joining the MLS and will have a few

holdovers from their North American Soccer League incarnation.

Among the new additions for first-year coach Jesse Marsch’s club

is Davy Arnaud, a former captain for Sporting Kansas City who will

have the same role with his new team.

“I am excited about the opportunity and look forward to the

challenges that remain ahead,” Arnaud told the team’s website.

The Impact also added former MLS goalkeeper of the year and

Jamaican international Donovan Ricketts in a deal with reigning MLS

Cup champ Los Angeles and acquired U.S. national team member Justin

Braun from Chivas USA. They selected Andrew Wenger from Duke with

the No. 1 overall pick in the SuperDraft.

Those players will try to help Montreal to a better opening

campaign than the Whitecaps, who were 6-18-10 and tied with New

England for the fewest points in the league with 28.

Teitur Thodarson, a holdover from the franchise’s minor league

days, was fired as coach in late May while the team was in the

midst of a league-record, 14-game winless skid following a 4-2

victory over Toronto in its inaugural game March 19.

Tom Soehn, the director of soccer operations, coached the

Whitecaps the rest of the season and Martin Rennie took over in

November.

Rennie could benefit from the addition of forward Sebastien Le

Toux, who was acquired from Philadelphia in January. Le Toux had 25

goals and 20 assists in his two seasons with the Union.

His presence could give the Whitecaps a dynamic set of scorers.

Brazilian forward Camilo’s 12 goals for the Whitecaps in 2011 were

tied for fifth in the league, and Eric Hassli added 10 goals in his

first MLS campaign.

Vancouver showed perhaps it’s ready for a better season by going

unbeaten in the Pro Soccer Classic at Disney World against MLS

foes. Camilo scored the lone goal in a 1-0 championship win over

Toronto.

The team outscored its first three opponents in that showcase by

a combined 7-0, and the effort in the final game in Florida left

captain Jay DeMerit less than satisfied.

“Guys didn’t work hard enough, but hopefully that’s a blessing

in disguise,” he said. “I’d rather have it this week than (against

Montreal). But take the positives away from it: It’s still a win.

Still kept a clean sheet. But ultimately still a lot of work to

do.”

That work will continue against a former minor league rival. The

teams also met in last year’s Canadian Championship semifinals,

with Vancouver outscoring Montreal 2-1 over the two-legged tie.

The Impact will play six of their first league games on the road

and their first five home contests at Olympic Stadium before

heading back to Saputo Stadium on June 16 against Seattle. That

facility is being renovated and expanded to 20,341 seats.

This game marks the only meeting between the Canadian clubs

during the MLS season.