[CONCACAF CHAMPIONS LEAGUE]
Late February isn't the time to be opening the soccer season in Montreal, but the USL-1's Impact has already sold 35,000
tickets for its biggest game ever, the first leg of the Concacaf Champions League quarterfinal series against Mexican club Santos.
The Impact opened Saputo Stadium in 2008, but it
will be playing its Concacaf match against Santos Feb. 25 in the 55,000-seat Olympic Stadium. It has a roof, allowing the game to be played in any weather conditions, but a snowstorm or
accumulation of snow on the roof could force the game to be postponed for safety reasons. The stadium has not held a sports event during the winter since the roof was ripped in 1999
The Impact doesn't open its 2009 USL-1 schedule
at Saputo Stadium until May 9.
The dates of the Concacaf
quarterfinals also forced the Impact to begin preparations for the 2008 season early. On Thursday, it wrapped up a five-game trip to Italy.
Montreal went unbeaten in all five games
with three wins and two ties. Cuban Eduardo Sebrango
scored to give the Impact a 1-0 win over Serie C2 (fourth division) Prato on Thursday.
"We are not at 100 percent," said Impact coach John Limniatis
, "but we are on the right track. We showed today that we have progressed since the
beginning of camp."
Sebrango came over from 2008 USL-1 champion Vancouver in the offseason along with backup goalie Srdjan Djekanovic
The other offseason signing of note was former D.C. United midfielder Stephen DeRoux
, who was acquired from the Minnesota Thunder, where he was an
all-USL-1 first-team pick in 2008.
Back are first-team all-league selection Nevio Pizzolitto
and second-team picks Matt Jordan
and Leonardo Di Lorenzo
. SCHEDULE Quarterfinals
Houston Dynamo (USA) vs. Atlante (MEX)
Montreal Impact (CAN) vs. Santos (MEX)
Puerto Rico Islanders vs. Marathon (HON)
Cruz Azul (MEX) vs. UNAM
(MEX) First leg:
Feb. 24-26 Second leg: