Davy Arnaud, Impact edge Sounders in season opener
Montreal captain scored the 1st goal in team's history last year
An experienced Montreal Impact side may have been out-played, but they still out-scored the Seattle Sounders.
Captain Davy Arnaud was the lone scorer as Montreal slipped past Seattle on Saturday in the season opener for both teams. It was only the seventh win in 20 season openers for the club, dating back to 1993 and the team's time in the lower divisions.
"I tip my hat to the whole team tonight," said Impact head coach Marco Schallibaum. "Because we faced an excellent team."
Sounders FC came out strongest, attacking early and often. It was all hands on deck for Montreal, which had to ward off multiple crosses into the penalty area.
Speedy wingers Steve Zakuani and Mario Martinez particularly troubled Montreal's defence. However, goalkeeper Troy Perkins was up to the task when shots resulting from their crosses went on target.
"A lot of teams don't go through us through the middle," said Impact midfielder Patrice Bernier. "This is a part of our game that's better than last year, and we'll be able to say that we can weather the storm against other teams."
Despite chance after chance from Seattle (0-1), spurred on by a home crowd of 38,988 on the opening day of the MLS season, Montreal (1-0) scored the game's only goal in the 35th minute.
Felipe Martins, the Impact's leading assist man in 2012, chipped a ball over the Sounders back line after winning possession in the midfield. Arnaud ran onto the pass and added a chip of his own, over goalkeeper Michael Gspurning and into the goal.
"Felipe timed the ball really well. I knew that he saw me running, and he played a great little ball," Arnaud said. "I figured I wasn't going to have a ton of time. I just had to hit it pretty fast after I took my first touch."
Halftime came 10 minutes later, and the Impact's experience took over from there. Montreal's attack grew more potent as the game progressed, its savvy players counter-attacking effectively against a young Seattle squad.
The starting lineups reflected the gap in the teams' experience. Seattle's starters averaged 27.27 years of age, while Montreal's players were 30.46 years old on average.
"These are games that last year, we would have lost," Bernier said. "We have guys at the back who have a high profile and know not to panic."
Sounders FC's desperation grew as the full-time whistle approached, but Montreal stood firm. When Eddie Johnson hit the crossbar from six yards out with 10 minutes remaining, it was obvious this was to be Montreal's night.
Seattle's players and fans succumbed to frustration, as objects from the stands rained down on the field at one injury stoppage.
It was nothing new to Montreal's experienced players, including defender Alessandro Nesta, who cut his teeth for 19 seasons in the Italian Serie A for Lazio and AC Milan before moving to MLS.
"In Italy, every game it's like that," he said.
Experience won out in the end, with a little bit of luck helping in the process.
"When you play away, you find it difficult, but you have to suffer for 15 minutes or 20 minutes, and we can win," Nesta said.