Lots of familiar faces will be in unfamiliar kits Saturday when the Sounders visit the Montreal Impact.
Depending on how you're doing the counting, the Montreal Impact roster includes about a half-dozen former Sounders -- and that’s not fully by accident.
While coach Jesse Marsch says no single player was brought in because of the Seattle connection, the Impact admits it studied Sounders FC as an expansion model.
“We spent half a day with the organization to learn more about it because we knew it was a great success story; it’s an amazing success story,” said Richard Legendre, executive vice president of the Impact. “… It showed us also a team that was in the same league (USL) as us in the past, and having this type of success was very motivational in a way.”
When the expansion draft rolled around, Montreal picked defender James Riley from Seattle, but later traded him away. They also acquired Mike Fucito in a trade with Seattle, before moving him on to Portland.Even after those moves, four former Sounders still wear the blue Impact crest: Tyson Wahl, Miguel Montano, Sanna Nyassi and Lamar Neagle of Federal Way.
There also are a couple of second-generation Seattle connections, as Impact defender Josh Gardner played for the USL Sounders from 2007-08, and goalkeeper coach Preston Burpo was in goal for the USL Sounders from 1997-2005.
“You’d have to take them one-by-one, because that’s how we approached it: looking at each one of them and then the kind of player that they are and how we think they fit with our team,” Marsch said of Montreal’s collection of ex-Sounders. “There is something to be said for being with a good club and playing in front of a big crowd. ... They’ve played in a lot of big games in front of big fans and everything else. So I think that’s a factor. But more than that, it’s how they fit with the team.”
Here's some of what some of what Wahl had to say when the Impact visited Vancouver in March:
It’s good to see familiar faces. I think a lot of guys are familiar, regardless of coming from the Sounders; just from being in the league a while. Being in the soccer community you tend to know guys. A lot of Sounders here and a couple of Chivas guys. Everybody’s pretty comfortable with one another at this point. ... The Sounders had a really deep team. They’re only allowed to protect a certain number of guys. They had a really deep team, so they had a lot of players to choose from. It was wise to look at that team, and that’s what they did.
Comparing the expansion Sounders with the expansion Impact) It’s been pretty similar. I think the most important thing is just to come together early. We had three positive preseason trips, and I think we grew in each segment of those trips. Just for most teams, preseason is a long time; for expansion teams it comes fast. So it’s important that you’re ready for. I think we are. We didn’t start tonight off the way we wanted to, but I think we’re in a good spot.