Sounders FC (0-0-0) vs. Montreal Impact (0-0-0)
Saturday, March 2, 7:30 p.m., CenturyLink Field, Seattle, Wash.
Local TV/radio: KING-5, 97.3 KIRO FM (Ross Fletcher and Kasey Keller)
Referee: Silviu Pestrescu
KEY IMPACT PLAYERS
F Marco Di Vaio — The 36-year-old Italian was Montreal’s first-ever designated player and serves as the team’s main man up front. Debuted last June and finished with five goals (third best on the team) in 17 games. Scored 142 goals in 342 Serie A games in Italy and featured for clubs like Lazio, Bari, Salernitana, Parma, Juventus, Genoa and Bologna.
D Alessandro Nesta — Speaking of standout Italians, this center back is also 36 years old and from Rome. A national-team mainstay for The Azzurri for about a decade, he spent about 10 years at Lazio on the club level then 10 years at AC Milan before coming to MLS. Obviously removed from his prime, but back then he was one of the best in the world.
M Patrice Bernier — This 33-year-old actually played for the lower-league Impact before coming back after the MLS leap. Was named team MVP last season after scoring nine goals — six on penalty kicks (tied for fourth in league history for most PKs in a season) — and adding eight assists. Three of those assists came in a 4-1 win vs. Seattle.
Felipe vs. Andy Rose — Montreal’s Brazilian playmaker had 10 assists last season for the expansion side. He’s a tough assignment for anyone and could prove more of an issue for the Sounders with Osvaldo Alonso suspended. I suspect Rose will get the start, and we’ll see if the second-year man will pick up from a stellar rookie year and help control play in the middle.
Steve Zakuani vs. Jeb Brovsky — No more benchmarks. No more injury talk (this short sentence notwithstanding). It’s all about production now for the Sounders’ winger in 2013, and that comes with expectations. Montreal’s right back is one of a handful of Impact players still around from the 2011 MLS Expansion Draft and has been a regular starter since midway through last year.
Montreal on the road vs. Seattle at home — The Impact were 2-12-3 on the road last year, and neither win came out West (Kansas City and New England). The Sounders, on the other hand, have gotten used to home openers with five-straight. The results? Three wins and one lose with a 8-2 goal differential. All three wins came by multiple goals.
I’m out of practice with these things, but I think this will be a pretty even game. Alonso’s absence is a big one — he helps cover up a lot of mistakes both in front of him and behind — and I’m curious to see how Brad Evans and Rose work together (assuming they start).
Montreal has been projected as a mid- to lower-level team in the Eastern Conference, and will probably be content to stay patient and counter. If they can avoid giving up an early goal, the pressure of the home opener might start to have an affect on the Sounders.
Ultimately, I still feel Seattle will grind out the three points. I think a high-powered offense — Eddie Johnson in particular — will prove special enough on the day.
Sounders FC 2, Montreal Impact 1
SEA — Eddie Johnson (Mauro Rosales) 39′
MTL — Andrea Pisanu (Felipe) 52′
SEA — David Estrada (un) 74′
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What do you think? How do you see this one playing out?