MONTREAL – The NASL version of the Montreal Impact did quite well against international opposition in the past. Can the MLS version do the same?
The Impact will welcome a third French club in four years as Olympique Lyonnais (above) will make their way to Stade Saputo for a friendly on July 24, the MLS club announced on Wednesday. In 2009, Montreal hosted France’s Trophée des Champions between Girondins de Bordeaux and En Avant de Guingamp at the Olympic Stadium, and played the former in a friendly a few days later.
It will be the first exhibition game for the MLS Impact in Montreal, who also held friendlies against teams like AC Milan, Fiorentina and River Plate as a second-division side. Impact sporting director Nick De Santis says there is a demand for such games in the Montreal market and that the club’s first international friendly as an MLS franchise will be a useful barometer of the team’s progress since its NASL days.
“We do need to respect who they are, the level they play, but we’ve shown as well that we’ve had very good moments in MLS,” De Santis told the press on Wednesday. “We're dealing with players of a high level as well, and I think that, for the fans, it'll be great because it will give them an idea of what level we're at. Lyon is one of the top clubs in Europe.”
Fans of the Montreal club have been quick to notice, however, that the game is sandwiched between two important MLS matches – away at the Houston Dynamo on July 21 and at home against the New York Red Bulls on July 28 – and may be a somewhat worrying prospect for a team looking to become the first expansion side to qualify for the MLS Cup Playoffs since the Seattle Sounders in 2009.
De Santis was reassuring, though, and stated that head coach Jesse Marsch’s take on the matter was heard, while Marsch himself described the encounter as an opportunity to test every member of the roster.
“We’ll use it as a chance, an exciting moment for the city and for the team to play against a good opponent,” Marsch noted. “It’s also a chance to get a lot of different guys on the field against some good players, see how they do and go forward.”