Montreal Impact Profile
|Major Honours||Voyageurs Cup (3)|
The Canadian team has attracted and acquired the playing and coaching talents of Premier League legends Thierry Henry and Didier Drogba in the past.
MLS added a third Canadian club ahead of the 2012 season, bringing in the Montreal Impact. Located in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, the team is known as Impact de Montreal among French-speaking supporters. They replaced a North American Soccer League team of the same name. They have won three Canadian Championships but have yet to make an MLS Cup final.
The Impact are owned by Giuseppe 'Joey' Saputo and they play at Saputo Stadium. The Saputo family owns Saputo Inc., a dairy product company, and Joey is also the chairman of Italian Serie A side Bologna. He founded the Impact in 1992 and added shareholders in 1999. Saputo left the Saputo Group in 2007 to focus on the Impact and led them into MLS in 2012 while also expanding Saputo Stadium.
The team kept the name Impact from the NASL side, which was also owned and run by Saputo. The Impact changed their logo and crest ahead of their participation in MLS, unveiling the new look before an NASL home game on August 6, 2011. The crest is a shield in blue, black, white and silver with a fleur-de-lis and four silver stars. The fleur-de-lis is on the flag of Quebec and the four stars represent the four founding communities of Montreal. The crest also features the team motto 'Tous Port Gagner' (All For Victory).
Among the big-name players to appear for the Impact since 2012 are Didier Drogba, Ignacio Piatti, Evan Bush, Marco Di Vaio, Patrice Bernier, Saphir Taider and Romell Quioto. Jesse Marsch, Frank Klopas and Thierry Henry have all managed the Impact.
Welcome to MLS
The Impact played in the NASL and couldn't move up to MLS until Toronto FC's exclusivity deal expired in 2009. Montreal were listed as a possible expansion side, but they lost out to the Vancouver Whitecaps in 2009. Saputo continued to work with MLS commissioner Don Garber and on May 7, 2010, the Impact were officially announced as the league's 19th team, set to commence play in 2012.
The Impact hired United States assistant Jesse Marsch to be their first manager while adding Brian Ching and Justin Mapp, among others, in the MLS Expansion Draft. They also introduced goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts and Quebec native Patrice Bernier along with Brazilian midfielder Felipe. With the first pick in the 2012 MLS SuperDraft, they chose Andrew Wenger from Duke University. Ching was traded back to Houston for a 2013 draft pick and they added Italian defender Matteo Ferrari.
Their first-ever MLS game was a 2-0 loss against the Vancouver Whitecaps. They made their home debut at the Olympic Stadium a week later with a 1-1 draw against Chicago Fire. That game drew a then all-time Montreal record of 58,912 fans. Their first-ever MLS win came against local rivals Toronto FC on April 7 and the Impact attracted 60,860 fans, another all-time record, for a game against the LA Galaxy in May. They brought in Italian striker Marco Di Vaio as a Designated Player at the end of May. They opened their fully renovated Saputo Stadium on June 16 with a 4-1 win over Seattle Sounders.
Ricketts was traded to Portland for goalkeeper Troy Perkins in August. The team lost or drew each of the final six games and missed the play-offs with a seventh-place finish in the East. They also lost in the semi-finals of the Canadian Championship (Voyageurs Cup) to Toronto FC.
Marsch left after the first season and Marco Schallibaum was hired as the new manager. The 2013 season started with four straight wins and they beat Toronto 6-0 on May 1 to win the Canadian Championship semi-final. In the two-legged final, they drew both games against Vancouver but won the title on away goals, claiming a CONCACAF Champions League place in the process. In the group stage of that competition in August and September, they won twice and lost twice, failing to advance.
Montreal lost six of their last eight games in the MLS regular season but still made their first play-off appearance with a fifth-place finish as Di Vaio scored 22 goals. In the play-offs, they were eliminated in the knockout round with a 3-0 away defeat to Houston Dynamo.
Frank Klopas, Ignacio Piatti and Didier Drogba
Schallibaum was fired before the 2014 season started and Frank Klopas took over. The former Chicago Fire manager brought in Argentine midfielder Ignacio Piatti in July as a Designated Player and traded Wenger for Jack McInerney.
On the pitch, the season was a struggle as Montreal lost their first three, then drew three before losing again. Klopas got his first win on April 26 against Philadelphia but only won two of the next five. A seven-game losing streak in July and August buried the Impact's play-off hopes and they went on to finish 10th in the East with Di Vaio scoring 13 goals.
Their play was much better in non-MLS competitions. Montreal beat FC Edmonton 5-4 in the two-legged Canadian Championship semi-final in May. In the final, they drew 1-1 at Toronto on May 28 but repeated as champions with a 1-0 home win as Felipe scored in the 90th minute on June 4. In the CONCACAF Champions League, they won their group with three wins and a draw to advance to the knockout round the following spring.
Before starting the 2015 MLS season, the Impact became the first Canadian team to eliminate a Liga MX side from the CONCACAF Champions League. On March 3, they beat Pachuca on away goals after drawing 3-3 on aggregate across the two games. In the semi-finals, they beat Costa Rican side Alajuelense 2-0 in the first leg at home and advanced on away goals after a 4-2 defeat on April 7. Piatti scored in the final's first leg on April 22 at America in Mexico City during a 1-1 draw. However, Montreal lost the final's second leg 4-2 in front of 61,004 fans on April 29.
Di Vaio and Ferrari retired before the 2015 MLS season and Felipe was traded to New York Red Bulls for Eric Alexander and Ambroise Oyongo. The season started slowly with three losses and two draws from their first five games. They won five of their next seven though, and Chelsea superstar Didier Drogba joined the team in late July. Klopas was fired on August 30 and replaced by former Impact player Mauro Biello. Drogba scored 11 goals in his first 11 games as Montreal won seven times to make the play-offs. In this spell, Drogba hit a hat-trick on September 5 against Chicago and scored twice three weeks later against D.C. United.
In the MLS Cup play-offs, the Impact beat Toronto FC 3-0 in the knockout round with goals from Drogba, Piatti and Bernier. In the conference semi-finals, they won the first leg at home against Columbus 2-1 but were eliminated with a 3-1 defeat in the second leg. Meanwhile, their run of two straight Canadian Championships ended with a 4-2 two-legged loss to Vancouver Whitecaps in the finals.
Mauro Biello fails to inspire
The Impact made limited moves heading into the 2016 campaign, their first full season under Biello. They started the campaign with two straight wins as Piatti scored three goals across the two games. Piatti and Drogba carried the attack at the start of the season, with at least one of the two scoring in seven of eight games from April 27 to July 2. Drogba also scored a hat-trick on July 23 in a 5-1 win over Philadelphia Union.
Montreal finished fifth in the Eastern Conference and made the play-offs despite having a -4 goal difference. In the knockout round, they took out D.C. United away from home 4-2 on October 27. In the conference semi-finals, they beat New York Red Bulls at home 1-0 in the first leg and won the second leg 2-1 on the road with two goals from Piatti. That set up a mouthwatering two-legged conference final against Canadian rivals Toronto FC. Montreal hosted the first leg in front of 61,004 fans at Saputo Stadium and won 3-2. However, the second leg was all Toronto as the Reds advanced with a 5-2 win on November 30.
In the Canadian Championship, Montreal were eliminated by Toronto FC in the semi-finals, losing the away leg 4-2 before drawing 0-0 at home.
Forward Matteo Mancosu came over from Bologna before the 2017 season as Drogba left. The Impact played the first five games of the MLS season without a win. In the Canadian Championship, they beat Vancouver Whitecaps in the semi-finals in May as Piatti scored twice in a second-leg home win. In the finals in June, they drew at home 1-1 against Toronto FC and lost 2-1 six days later on the road. They lost three of four in July in MLS before winning four straight in August to get back into play-off contention. However, losing nine of the final 10 left the Impact in ninth place and out of the play-offs.
The short tenure of Remi Garde
Heading into the 2018 season, Biello's reign was terminated and Remi Garde was hired as the new manager. They brought in defender Jukka Raitala, while midfielder Patrice Bernier retired. They also added midfielder Saphir Taider on loan from Bologna. The season started with losses in six of their first eight MLS games. In July, they were eliminated by Vancouver in the semi-finals of the Canadian Championship with a 2-0 away loss in the second leg. Piatti tallied 16 goals, but the Impact finished seventh in the East and missed the play-offs for a second-straight season.
The 2019 season was even worse in MLS as the Impact finished ninth in the Eastern Conference with a -13 goal difference. Taider, by now on a Designated Player deal, led the Impact with 10 goals. Garde was fired on August 21 and Wilmer Cabrera was named interim manager.
The highlight of the season came with another Canadian Championship triumph. The Impact beat York9 FC 3-2 on aggregate in the quarter-finals and dispatched Cavalry FC 3-1 on aggregate in the semi-finals. In the first leg of the final against Toronto FC, Piatti scored the only goal in a 1-0 home win. They lost 1-0 in Toronto on September 25 and the Championship was decided on penalty kicks. Clement Diop made three saves as Impact won the title 3-1 on penalties.
A legend of the game takes the helm
On November 14, 2019, the Impact hired former Arsenal, Barcelona, New York Red Bulls and French national team superstar Thierry Henry to be their new manager. Henry had managed his boyhood team Monaco from October 2018 to January 2019 after two years as an assistant with the Belgium national side. The Impact brought in forward Romell Quioto from Houston and added midfielder Victor Wanyama from Tottenham. However, franchise record scorer Ignacio Piatti returned home to Argentina and defender Dan Lovitz was traded to Nashville.
Henry got his first MLS win in the 2020 season opener, 2-1 over New England, before drawing 2-2 at FC Dallas. The season was then suspended by COVID-19 until July. At the MLS is Back Tournament, the Impact lost to Toronto 4-3, New England 1-0 and beat D.C. United 1-0 in the group stage. In the round of 16, they lost to Orlando City 1-0.
The Canadian Championship was suspended and ultimately played as a three-team double round-robin between Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver in August and September. Montreal won three and lost three as Toronto FC won the title with 12 points.
In the 2020 CONCACAF Champions League, Montreal beat Saprissa on away goals in the last 16. In the quarter-finals, they lost to Olimpia 2-1 at home in March before the competition was suspended. On December 10, Montreal beat Olimpia in Orlando 1-0 but were eliminated on away goals.
Montreal finished ninth in the MLS Eastern Conference in 2020 as they lost eight of their 11 games after the Canadian Championship. They also traded long-serving goalie Evan Bush to Vancouver. Due to the travel restrictions in Canada, they weren't allowed to play at home and they used the New York Red Bulls' stadium as their home facility for seven games, winning just once. Quioto led the team with 10 goals in 2020.
Before the 2021 season, the Impact traded for Chicago Fire midfielder Djordje Mihailovic and Austin FC defender Kamal Miller. They also added Canadian defender Zorhan Bassong from Belgian side Cercle Brugge. Jukka Raitala's contract was not renewed and Lassi Lappalainen and Luis Binks were added on loan from Bologna.
Montreal Impact's rivals
Montreal's biggest rivals by far are Toronto FC. The cities of Toronto and Montreal are the two largest in Canada and have a significant rivalry in the National Hockey League. On the soccer front, they play in the Canadian Classique, which predates MLS and goes back to the Canadian Soccer League, the A-League and the NASL. The rivalry has only intensified in the MLS era with ever larger crowds. The Canadian Classique is also called the 401 Derby, named after the highway that connects the two cities.
The first games between professional soccer clubs in the two cities took place in 1971 as the Toronto Metros played the Montreal Olympique. The Impact formed in 1992 and the Toronto Lynx were a main rival in the A-League and USL First Division. Toronto FC formed in 2008 and their first match against the Impact came in the inaugural Canadian Championship in that year.
On May 27, 2008, Toronto won 1-0 in front of 12,303 fans at Saputo Stadium. Montreal secured a draw in Toronto two months later and eventually won the Canadian Championship and the automatic entrance into the CONCACAF Champions League. The teams have met in the Canadian Championship every year since except in 2011 and 2018. Toronto hold an 11-4 advantage in the competition, with five draws.
The first MLS game between the rivals was on April 7, 2012, and the Impact won 2-1 in front of 24,000 fans at the Olympic Stadium. The teams met in the 2015 MLS Cup play-offs, with Montreal winning 3-0 at home. In the 2016 MLS Cup play-offs, each team won at home, but Toronto advanced 7-5 on aggregate. Toronto beat Montreal 4-3 at the 2020 MLS is Back Tournament in Orlando, Florida. Over the first 25 MLS games, Toronto have won 13, with Montreal winning eight. There have been four draws.
Overall, since the Impact were formed in 1992, Toronto have outscored them by 21 goals and won 26 of 50 matches. Montreal have won 14 of those games and the other 10 have ended in draws.
Montreal Impact's top players
Designated Players at Montreal have included Didier Drogba, Ignacio Piatti, Marco Di Vaio, Hernan Bernardello, Saphir Taider and Victor Wanyama.
Goalkeeper Evan Bush left during the 2020 season with a franchise-record 176 appearances. Midfielder Patrice Bernier played 151 games from 2012-17, while Piatti played in 135 games from 2014-19.
Piatti holds the Impact scoring record with 66 goals. Di Vaio is second with 34 in his three seasons, while Drogba scored 21 goals in his two years with the Impact. Taider has 20 at the end of the 2020 season and is the active leader.
Piatti also holds the team record with 35 assists, 10 more than Bernier. Felipe had 24 assists from 2012-15 and Justin Mapp had 21 over the same period. Taider is the active leader on this list as well, with 21.
Piatti is the only Impact player in the MLS era to be named team MVP more than once. He won the award each season from 2015-18. Davy Arnaud, Bernier, Piatti and Jukka Raitala have been the Impact's captains.