MONTREAL – The Montreal Impact will not be playing in their usual home stadium on Tuesday, but they'll still feel right at home at the Olympic Stadium.
The Impact moved indoors to practice at "The Big O" on Thursday as they prepare to face Toronto FC in the first leg of their all-Canadian Audi 2016 MLS Cup Eastern Conference Championship (8 pm ET; ESPN in US | TSN1/3, RDS in Canada) at the gargantuan arena instead of the smaller outdoor confines of Stade Saputo.
They did so to re-acquaint themselves with an artificial turf surface that has helped them gain an advantage in the past and they will be hoping that continues against their rivals.
"It may be a challenge for TFC – for us, it's not," said forward Dominic Oduro. "I think we're really used to this field, even though it doesn't bounce the way you want it to be, but we've played a couple of games here and we've been doing great. So we're very accustomed to this field, which I think will be advantageous for us, but we still just have to come here and stick with what we're preparing towards and just have fun with it. It reminds me of Champions League, we just have to come here and just have fun, and hopefully we execute, hopefully we get it done."
Oduro was also not too concerned about his speed as the Impact move from Stade Saputo's grass field to the domed stadium's synthetic pitch.
"I'm faster everywhere," Oduro said. "Take me to the moon, I'm still fast."
Impact coach Mauro Biello also noted that his players' familiarity with Olympic Stadium's turf pitch helps as they adapt to the change from grass to turf.
"No, we have played here before," Biello said. "We trained here prior to the season, we have played big games here, and the plan is to train here and adjust to it, and today was an opportunity to get oriented to the surface. We'll gradually increase our practice tempo and level, and get ready for Toronto."
Biello said he and his staff had prepared for adapting the team to playing on turf as the Impact moved from mid-November weather at their nearby Centre Nutrilait practice facility to the controlled environment provided by the enclosed stadium's suspended roof.
"It's a bit different," Impact midfielder Ignacio Piatti said when talking about the turf. "It's harder, the artifical turf changes things, but we play our first few games of the season here so we're used to it. And I like playing here in front of all our fans – it's wonderful, I'm very happy about it."
Oduro does have sympathy for those who are unable to embrace the firm playing surface, but he is ecstatic about playing such a crucial game in front of as many Impact supporters as possible, potentially more than the 61,004 who attended the second leg of the 2015 CONCACAF Champions League final, which would make it the biggest soccer crowd in Montreal since over 70,000 attended the 1976 Olympic gold medal final.
"Obviously I respect the fact that some players don't like the turf because of how hard it is, but I also love playing here," Oduro said. "Listen, you're playing in front of a crowd of 60,000 - it can't get any better. It's just like playing in Seattle, or something like that, for me it's just really fun. I want to play in front of the crowd, just entertain them like we always do, and obviously we owe them for losing the Champions League final so that's a way to make up nice for it, and beating TFC would make it really sweet, just the cherry on the cake."