The Pacific Northwest has been very kind to the Montreal Impact so far this season.
The Impact opened the 2013 Major League Soccer campaign last weekend with a rare road win, defeating the Seattle Sounders 1-0.
Now Montreal will try to win back-to-back road games in MLS for the first time in history when they visit the Portland Timbers on Saturday.
Here are two storylines to keep in mind ahead of Saturday night’s contest in Oregon.
Montreal was terrible on the road during its first MLS season in 2012, accumulating a porous 2-12-3 record away from home. But with a win in Portland, the Impact could reach its season total for road victories from last year.
The result against the Sounders truly was a shocking result for a team like the Impact who struggled away from home – even more so when you consider Seattle is one of the toughest places to visit for opposing teams.
Montreal was far from flashy, and focused its attentions on containing the Sounders’ dangerous attack. In particular, the defensive duo of Alessandro Nesta and fellow Italian Matteo Ferrar was particularly effective in shutting down Seattle’s Eddie Johnson and Mauro Rosales.
The Impact created little in the final third, but made the most of its few chances, with Davy Arnaud netting the winner in the 35th minute with a clever chip.
Confidence is high in the Impact camp after their surprising road victory, and they’ll try to use that momentum going into Portland’s Jeld-Wen Field, another stadium that is known for its intimidating and passionate fans.
“It was an ideal start for us to get a win in one of the toughest places to play, and now we have another opportunity to get a result and keeps the momentum going in another tough place to play,” Arnaud told the team’s official website.
“Playing in front of good crowds like this one is always fun and easy to get up for.”
Saturday’s match in Portland is a homecoming of sorts for Impact goalkeeper Troy Perkins.
Perkins played 51 games for the Timbers in 2011 and 2012 before being traded to Montreal for fellow shot stopper Donovan Ricketts last August. Coincidentally, the Impact earned their second MLS win by beating Portland at home on April 28 — Ricketts was in net for Montreal, while Perkins gave up two goals in a losing effort while tending to the Timbers’ goal.
As it turned out, the trade worked out in Perkins’ favour more than Ricketts — Perkins has posted five shutouts in 10 league appearances since joining Montreal, including last week’s win in Seattle.
Perkins left the Timbers on sour terms with club management, but he’s looking forward to returning to Portland for the first time since the trade.
“I’m excited,” Perkins told the team’s official website. “The way I had to leave there was tough for me. One day, I get the phone call and the next day, I’m gone and I haven’t been back since.
“It’s a whole new team this year, but they’re still going to feed off their fans.”
“The feeling should be the same as it was in Seattle. We will have to manage the atmosphere and the emotion. Winning last week helped us realize that we can get a result on the road. Last season’s struggles are in the past.” – Troy Perkins
Facts and stats
— These teams only met once last year, a 2-0 win for the Impact in Montreal on April 28. But they played each other 15 times between 2001 and 2010 when they both competed in the USL-1 and later the NASL.
— Impact midfielder Justin Mapp needs one assist to reach 50 for his MLS career. His next game will also mark his 250th career appearance in MLS.
— Canadian international and Impact midfielder Patrice Bernier’s next goal will be the 10th of his MLS career.
Midfielder Sinisa Ubiparipovic (calf), and defenders Maxim Tissot (shoulder) and Nelson Rivas (knee) are out for Montreal. Midfielder Justin Mapp is questionable.
After Saturday’s game, the Impact return to Montreal where they will host Toronto FC in their home opener at Olympic Stadium on March 16.