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February 15, 2015 at 6:00 AM

MLS Countdown, No. 20: Montreal Impact

We’re counting down the days until the Major League Soccer opener — Chicago at Los Angeles on March 6 — by marching backward through Matt Pentz’s projected league standings for upcoming season.

Today, we’re starting at the bottom with the Montreal Impact.

A refresher: 2014 was a tale of two seasons up in Quebec. Montreal finished in dead last among all MLS teams with 28 points, five fewer than a Chivas USA team that was staring down the franchise’s demise for most of the stretch run. The Impact lost seven straight matches at one point, going from June 29 to August 17 without managing so much as a draw.

In the CONCACAF Champions League, though, Montreal weirdly thrived. The Impact was one of just two MLS teams — D.C. United was the other — to survive the knockdown stage, and takes on Pachuca from Liga MX in a two-leg quarterfinal that begins on Feb. 24.

The pessimist’s take: It’s hard to imagine sinking any lower than last place in the entire league, but at least Montreal has so far avoided the off-field turmoil that sank Chivas and has been making eyes at the New York Red Bulls this offseason. A recent interview with team owner and president Joey Saputo, though, suggests a club at a crossroads.

The shine from Montreal’s inaugural MLS campaign is wearing off quickly. The Impact saw its average attendance drop by more than 5,000 between 2012 and last season, and it had sold fewer than 5,000 season tickets for the upcoming campaign as of early February.

“The disappointment is thinking we’d be more relevant in the city after three years,” Saputo told CBC Sports. “Either we missed the boat (in marketing) or we missed the boat totally in thinking this was a soccer market.”

The optimist’s take: As stinging as Saputo’s remarks were to a still-nascent supporter base, winning provides an immediate balm. And in the single-entity, salary-capped world of MLS, few teams in the doldrums for long.

The Impact drafted veteran Nigel Reo-Coker in the Re-Entry Draft and signed midfielder Marco Donadel, who has spent the last decade in Italy’s Serie A with Fiorentina, Napoli and Verona. Argentine designated player Ignacio Piatti is, on his day, one of the most exciting players to watch in the league.

And hey, as wide open as the Eastern Conference currently stands, there’s plenty of room for a rapid improvement.

Check back tomorrow, as the countdown continues with the No. 19 San Jose Earthquakes … 

| More in MLS, MLS Countdown

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