MONTREAL - Matteo Ferrari can't wait for his Major League Soccer adventure to begin.
The Italian central defender was a surprise find by the expansion Montreal Impact and will make his debut along with the new club in their regular season opener Saturday against the Whitecaps in Vancouver.
The 32-year-old Ferrari is expected to be in the starting 11 along with two other MLS newcomers, midfielders Patrice Bernier and Felipe.
"(It's) a new experience for me and the club," Ferrari said Thursday before the squad boarded a flight to the West Coast. "I wanted to try a new experience with Montreal.
"I'm so enthusiastic. And we'll see on the pitch."
The Impact, who played 18 seasons in lower leagues before they were granted admission as the 19th team in MLS, will get a look at how the players they amassed from various sources over the past six months have come together as a team.
Based on their nearly two-hour training session, the starting 11 should also include veteran goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts, with Ferrari and former Seattle Sounder Tyson Wahl in the central defence.
Ex-Whitecap Jeb Brovsky is to start at right back with Josh Gardner on the left.
The midfield should have Justin Mapp with Bernier, Felipe and captain Davy Arnaud and strikers Justin Braun and Sanna Nyassi up front.
Bernier, of Brossard, Que., returned as a free agent to the Impact after nine seasons in Europe, while the Brazilian Felipe last played in Switzerland.
Team owner-president Joey Saputo and technical director Nick De Santis were scouting possible designated player candidates in Italy when an unanticipated meeting with Ferrari was arranged.
The two sides agreed that the former Inter Milan and Genoa defender would join the team's training camp to see if he was a good fit. That led to a contract, and Ferrari's transfer papers from his last club in Turkey came in Wednesday to make it official.
"I like the mentality here," Ferrari said. "I like America. I like Canada.
"I wanted to try a new experience. I have many friends in North America, so for me, it was time to try."
He has certainly impressed coach Jesse Marsch.
"He sees everything coming so far ahead of time and he cuts everything out," Marsch said. "He's sharp on the ball. He's smart. He's really fit in seamlessly even if he came in a month late."
Ferrari liked it so much, he called a former Italian national squad teammate Bernardo Corradi and got him to take the same route to Montreal by joining the Impact in camp.
Ferrari and Corradi had been training together with an Italian third division club.
"When I saw the opportunity for him, I called and said 'Listen, they are looking for a forward. If you're ready, I think it will be good for the team and for you.'" said Ferrari.
The 35-year-old Corradi, who last played for Udinese in Italy, has not seen game action in several months and will need time to be match-fit. No contract has been signed yet.
Goal scoring is expected to be the challenge for the Impact, who seem to be solid in goal and on defence.
As an expansion club, it is no surprise that they are almost universally being picked to finish last in the league in their first year. But the players want to show they are better than that.
"We're a new team and it won't be easy to be ready right now, but we're trying to be like a team," Ferrari said. "We know that we can play against anyone because we saw this in the (Disney) tournament in Orlando (last week).
"We played a very good game against Houston (a 1-1 draw), who made the final last year. It was a friendly match, but it was important for the group to know that we can do that."
At the same tournament, the Impact were wiped out 3-0 by Vancouver, a much-improved team under new coach Martin Rennie in their second MLS campaign.
The Montreal defence will be tested against an aggressive Whitecaps attack led by French forwards Eric Hassli and Sebastien Le Toux.
Ricketts said the circumstances have changed from a relaxed pre-season meeting in Florida last week to a game that counts in the standing in Vancouver.
"The pressure is on Vancouver," 34-year-old said. "Montreal is a new team. Montreal is coming to your stadium, so it's up to you to defend your home turf."