It took a perfect goal from Davy Arnaud to give Montreal a surprising season-opening win and provide Seattle a shock that its nearly perfect preseason meant nothing.
Arnaud caught Seattle goalkeeper Michael Gspurning off his line and scored in the 35th minute, and the Impact opened the 2013 MLS season with an unexpected 1-0 win over the Sounders on Saturday night.
”Scoring goals on the road is tough, and especially against them,” Arnaud said. ”They score a lot of goals here at home. This year during preseason, we were pretty solid defensively. If we can continue to score one goal and get points out of games on the road, we’re going to be OK.”
Arnaud and midfielder Felipe connected on a quick counter attack late in the first half after Seattle controlled much of the play. Montreal then withstood the Sounders push for a tying goal in the second half to hand Seattle its second loss in a home opener in the five seasons of the franchise.
Arnaud, who scored the first goal in Montreal’s history a season ago, got behind Seattle’s defense and collected the perfectly measured pass from Felipe. Arnaud then chipped the shot with the outside of his right foot over Gspurning, who had wondered too far away from his net.
”He made a perfect goal I have to admit,” Gspurning said. ”He touches one-time over my 6-foot-6 (frame), that’s brilliant.”
The result was surprising considering each team’s perceived standing heading into the season. Seattle is expected to be among the league’s elite while Montreal is viewed as a still developing franchise. Seattle doesn’t have much time to worry about the loss as they face Mexican power Tigres in the first leg of the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals next Wednesday with the return leg on March 12 in Seattle. The Sounders do not play another league match until March 16 against rival Portland.
”Anytime you get slapped in the face like this in a game hopefully you rise from that,” Seattle coach Sigi Schmid said. ”Hopefully you become a little more determined, motivated, a little more focused and that is something we certainly have to be in the Champions League and something we have to be in our next league game.”
Montreal will play at Portland next Saturday night.
Seattle will lament its missed chances to at least gain a point, no one more than Eddie Johnson. In the 81st minute, Johnson had a point-blank attempt in front of Montreal goalkeeper Troy Perkins, but his left-footed shot went high, rattled off the crossbar and ricocheted away from trouble. Johnson had taken a deft pass from Alex Caskey to get the opportunity, but couldn’t convert Seattle’s best scoring chance of the game.
About 15 minutes earlier, Seattle had another chance turned away by the frame of the goal when Brad Evans’ shot from 20 yards out beat Perkins but rattled off the post. Moments before Evans was denied, Arnaud missed a chance to give the Impact a 2-0 lead when his header off a cross from Sanna Nyassi was tipped just enough by Gspurning to deflect off the crossbar.
”The first one off the post, I did get a touch to it, and got pretty lucky with it not coming straight back off my leg off the post,” Perkins said. ”The other one where Eddie hits it off the crossbar, I think it’s just a reaction from him to put his foot in, and he gets a little bit unlucky.”
Seattle played without defensive midfield star Osvaldo Alonso and defender Marc Burch, both serving suspensions that carried over from the end of last season. Andy Rose took the place of Alonso while 19-year-old rookie DeAndre Yedlin got the start along the defensive backline with starter Adam Johansson out with a knee sprain. Schmid also said that forward David Estrada had an ankle injury and midfielder Lamar Neagle was unavailable as part of the agreement reached when he was traded from Montreal to Seattle during the preseason.
The lack of chances for Seattle also highlighted one of its major concerns in giving Johnson help up front. The Sounders reached a buyout with designated player Christian Tiffert on Saturday, opening up a spot should Seattle be able to complete its pursuit of Nigerian striker Obafemi Martins, who is currently playing for Levante in Spain.