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Impact looks to crowd for boost in MLS home opener against Chicago

03/16/2012 06:20 EDT | Updated 05/16/2012 05:12 EDT
MONTREAL - A huge crowd is expected for the Montreal Impact's first home game in Major League Soccer and coach Jesse Marsch said Friday he wants his club to seize the moment.

A gathering of 60,000 fans or more is expected at Olympic Stadium as the expansion squad gets to make a first impression on a city that seems anxious for a glimpse at North America's top pro soccer league and a team Marsch and the club's front office have put together.

The Impact will also be seeking its first MLS goal and league points when it faces the Chicago Fire on Saturday afternoon.

''With a big crowd, everyone wants to show well and show what kind of team we are,'' said Marsch, the former MLS midfielder who left a job as assistant coach with the U.S. national squad to become the Impact's head man.

''But this is being a pro. It's dealing with moments like this. In my career, I loved these kind of games. These are the kind of games you die for. You don't get many of these in a career. I think our group recognizes that and we'll be ready to capitalize on it.''

The Impact made its MLS debut last week in a 2-0 loss to the Whitecaps in Vancouver in which the club showed plenty of energy but little cohesion or scoring touch. Montreal hopes the boost from a big crowd plus an extra week of working together will make a difference against a Chicago side playing its first game of the season.

Team president Joey Saputo and his staff have done their work, plastering posters and billboards around the city and running ads in the media to trumpet the team's arrival. As of Friday, about 54,000 tickets had been sold and the club hopes a good walkup will push the attendance over 60,000.

Extra bleachers at field level were put in this week as the team tries to break the local record for a pro soccer match of 58,542. That mark was set in a 1981 playoff game by the defunct Montreal Manic of the North American Soccer League, coincidentally against a team from Chicago.

Montreal might even have a shot at Vancouver's Canadian record for a pro match of 60,342 against Seattle in 1983 at B.C. Place.

The Impact won't reach the overall record, however, as 71,617 took in the soccer final at the 1976 Olympics in Montreal, as East Germany downed Poland 3-1.

Still, it will be packed and noisy in the domed facility.

''There will be emotion in the game,'' said Marsch. ''That's a good thing but also something we'll have to control.

''There's also going to be the noise factor. Each individual on the field is going to have to be aware of how they're fitting in the group. If they can't yell at a guy, we have to be looking around and making sure there's good balance.''

It may also be a first game for veteran striker Bernardo Corradi, who signed this week after a two-week trial. His international transfer papers came in Friday, making him eligible to play.

Marsch did not announce his starting 11, although from practice it appeared identical to one used last week in Vancouver. That had Justin Braun and Sanna Nyassi as forwards in a 4-4-2 formation.

Although Marsch would not confirm it, Corradi is expected to be among the 18 players dressed and may be used as a substitute in the second half. The veteran of more than 200 Serie A matches in Italy has not played a match since last May, although he had been training with third division club Monza before joining the Impact.

''I haven't been involved in a game in months, so it's good — a nice feeling inside,'' the 35-year-old Corradi said.

The six-foot-three striker could bring a new dimension to a Montreal offence that is short on true strikers. Corradi is what Marsch calls a target striker, who can hold onto the ball until teammates join in the attack or turn and score himself.

''He slows the game down,'' said Marsch. ''And he's clever and smart in and around the box. And he can score goals.''

The Impact should have veteran Donovan Ricketts in goal, with Josh Garner, Tyson Wahl, Matteo Ferrari and Jeb Brovsky on the back line. Justin Mapp, Patrice Bernier, Felipe and Davy Arnaud are in the midfield.

Their chief task will be to stop the Fire's long balls over the middle to speedy forwards Dominic Oduro and Patrick Nyarko.

Montreal was burned on just such a goal last week when the Whitecaps' Sebastien Le Toux scored only four minutes into the season opener.

But the home opener will likely be more about energy and emotion than tactics.

''The crowd is a huge boost,'' said Gardner. ''It'll be tough on teams coming in here.''

Added Arnaud: ''It's a big advantage, but we have to take advantage of it. We've already got a game under our belts and they're coming into our place and we'll have a lot of people behind us.

''It's a good nervous. Everyone feels that because you want to succeed and do well for the club. If you don't feel it, you need to do something else because you don't care enough. But as soon as the whistle blows, we'll all be ready.''

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