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March 23, 2014 at 12:02 AM

Sounders FC vs. Montreal Impact, preview and prediction

Sounders FC (1-1-0) at Montreal Impact (0-2-0)
Sunday, March 23, 1 p.m., Olympic Stadium, Montreal, Quebec
TV: JOEtv locally, ROOT Sports regionally (Ross Fletcher, Kasey Keller)
Radio: KIRO Radio 97.3 FM
Spanish radio: ESPN Deportes 1490 AM
Referee: Armando Villareal

KEY IMPACT PLAYERS

M Felipe Martins — The 23-year-old Brazilian has played a key role in both wins over the Sounders, scoring in the 4-1 home win in 2012 and masterfully setting up the winner in the 1-0 triump last season in Seattle. He’s got nine goals and 19 assists for the Impact in 62 games since 2012. He became the first player in franchise history to reach 5,000 minutes played, and look for him to be the creative force in the middle of the field.

F Andrew Wenger — The No. 1 pick in the 2012 MLS SuperDraft hasn’t quite reached the level of production many have expected, but he’s the one being asked to provide the scoring punch up front in the absence of Marco Di Vaio, who will be serving the last of his three-game suspension. Wenger, a Duke product, got on the scoreboard in Impact’s opener, which matched his goal-scoring production in 24 games last season. Might this be the year he takes the next step?

GK Troy Perkins — Now has the honor of being the guy traded to Montreal in exchange for the guy that ended up being the 2013 MLS Goalkeeper of the Year (Portland’s Donovan Ricketts). Perkins, of course, claimed the honor himself in 2006 with D.C. United, part of the success that led to a brief stint in Norway. It’s been a tough start to this season having taken four goals on nine shots (one on a penalty kick).

KEY MATCHUPS

Justin Mapp vs. Dylan Remick — If Felipe is Montreal’s creator in the middle, Mapp is the playmaker on the wings. He played mostly on the right in the season opener but roamed last week. Either way, he’s sure to find himself in some 1v1 situations with the Sounders’ left back. Might Leo Gonzalez be ready to return? Sure. But we’ll have to see it first, and the maligned turf at Olympic Stadium might not be ideal for a veteran player returning from groin surgery.

Obafemi Martins vs. Matteo Ferrari — Seattle’s DP forward has been active in the attack but hasn’t quite tallied his first goal of the season. He set up Clint Dempsey’s goal last week and will be called upon to step it up the next two weeks in Dempsey’s absence with the suspension. Ferrari is a 34-year-old Italian who has played for clubs like Inter Milan and Roma among a few impressive others. I’m not entirely sure if these two crossed paths at Inter in 2001.

Seattle’s business trip vs. the snow shenanigans — Sunday will mark the Sounders’ fourth day in Quebec after arriving Thursday. Things certainly haven’t gone to plan with the suspension, but will the group be able to turn it on come game-time? The emotions of a home opener might be similar to that in the 2012 meeting, when the Impact unveiled the renovated Saputo Stadium, and that one ended in a 4-1 Montreal win. It’s not like Seattle was very strong on the road last year, either.

PREDICTION

The Impact were a popular pick among MLSsoccer.com editors, and it’s not hard to imagine the team feeling some sense of urgency playing at home for the first time after an 0-2 start.

I think that makes this a particularly difficult game for the Sounders, who are without Dempsey and had several other key guys limited this past week with Gonzalez, Brad Evans (calf) and Chad Marshall (leg).

Ultimately, I see it playing evenly, and while picking a tie is never fun, that’s how I see it. New Impact coach Frank Klopas has played to five ties in seven games against Seattle, for what it’s worth…

Sounders FC 1, Montreal Impact 1

MON — Patrice Bernier (Justin Mapp) 54′
SEA — Obafemi Martins (Marco Pappa) 83′

*     *     *

What do you think? How do you see it playing out?

| More in Preview and prediction, Sounders FC

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