MONTREAL – Long after the packs of reporters and cameramen had finished their business and left the Impact’s locker room, Davy Arnaud began gathering his things.
Montreal’s captain slipped a stylish charcoal suit jacket over his light blue dress shirt – the same get-up each of his teammates were outfitted in – and plucked the game ball from his locker. Covering every inch of free space were his teammates' signatures, mementos from a historic night for both Arnaud and the Impact.
On the day MLS officially introduced itself to Montreal, Arnaud took home the plaudits. The 11-year veteran, who had spent the entirety of his career with Kansas City until an offseason trade landed him in Quebec, gave his side a lead in the second half with a trademark late run into the box and leaping header, a goal that will take its place in club history reels for years to come.
Of course, the lead didn’t stand up – Chicago striker Dominic Oduro made sure of that – but it couldn’t put a damper on Arnaud’s assessment of the occasion when asked how the match stacked up with the rest of the shining moments in his career.
“It’s got to be up there,” Arnaud told MLSsoccer.com. “You get a sense as a player how big a game is for a club. Even though a lot of us have only been here for a couple months, we know how big this was. For a night like this or a day like this, you’re going to remember it for a long time.”
Then Arnaud paused, before summing it all up; the goal, the match and the record-setting crowd of 58,912 strong that packed the Big O to welcome the MLS edition of the Impact to Montreal.
“This is one of my more special moments in the league,” he said. “That’s for sure.”
Truthfully, it will be a moment that stays with those in attendance for as long as their memories remain intact.
In the stands, where empty seats were hard to find, French mixed with English, and the crowd made their presence known in full force each time the Impact even sniffed an attacking opportunity.
The Ultras Montréal took up residence in the curved section that used to abut home plate at Expos games and bounced and sang for 90 minutes. And when Arnaud scored and sprinted toward the corner flag, channeling his inner turtle by spinning 360 degrees on his back, they helped commemorate a occasion that seemed close to perfect.
“I think it’s the dream scenario for [Davy],” head coach Jesse Marsch said with a smile before taking stock of what Arnaud means to a club still in its MLS infancy. “For us, we put a lot into what being on this team means and what the group means. Davy is our leader, he’s our captain.”
Needless to say, Arnaud has taken on that mantle and those expectations with aplomb.
More than any other player, the 31-year-old midfielder bears the weight of responsibility for the Impact’s fortunes on the field, a burden that comes with pulling on the armband and leading your teammates onto the pitch.
He delivered spectacularly on Saturday, only one thing preventing a captain, a club and a fanbase from enjoying a day straight out of the storybooks.
“It was a special feeling a special moment … not only for me, but also for the guys, and for the club,” Arnaud said. “It would have been better if we got the three points.”
WATCH: Arnaud scores historic goal for Montreal