It’s certainly not everyone’s cup of tea. It’s dated, devoid of atmosphere except on the most populous of occasions and it’s under a roof that’s slammed firmly shut, but Montreal Impact’s results at Stade Olympique give reason for cheer.
In 20 matches since entering MLS in 2012, the Impact have lost only three; v New York Red Bulls (1-2), Seattle Sounders (0-2) and Club America in the Champions League Final (2-4).
Of the other seventeen, there have been 9 victories, including 4 over the old enemy, Toronto FC, who have never won there. In fact it’s the venue at which Montreal has defeated TFC on more occasions than any other.
New York Red Bulls have been beaten twice also, but Seattle Sounders seem to like the terrain, even if they wouldn’t care to admit it, having left the huge concrete bowl undefeated on two occasions. They are also the last MLS team to win indoors in Montreal, back in 2014, Montreal’s most horrible MLS season.
Attendances have ranged from the low teens to the low sixties. It’s clearly a much more enticing prospect on the three occasions when 60,000+ crowds turned up than the early May evening in 2012 when just 13,405 bothered to show for a Canadian Championship semi-final first-leg against Toronto FC. Those loyal souls weren’t rewarded either, being treated to a scoreless ninety minutes.
Still despite the disparity of attendance figures, the average crowd figure across the twenty games staged there since 2012 is a healthy 32,982.
This writer would never in a million years advocate the Impact playing home games at Stade Olympique, except under circumstances of severe weather conditions, when it cannot be helped. Soccer is meant to be played on grass, although not sure Stade Saputo in all its jaundiced imperfection at the beginning of last season aids my case.
It appears that not only will Montreal Impact play its first MLS game of 2020 indoors at home (it will be New England’s debut appearance at the venue), but if the challenge from Deportivo Saprissa is successfully negotiated, their first two home Champions League games will also take place in Stade Olympique’s spacious confines.
It may not be what we want to experience, at least not in an ideal world, but it’s far from a reason for doom and gloom either.
Sometimes there’s a case for ‘needs/must’, and this is certainly one of those times, although you cannot help wondering if Montreal is to be at the table for the FIFA World Cup party in 2026, that construction of a new venue must be considered. The Big O does not show off the best of Montreal, or anything close to it.
But if it continues to serve the Impact kindly throughout the months of February and March (maybe early April too - we don’t know yet) next year, there won’t be too many complaints from the bleu/blanc/noir faithful.