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Impact And The Expansion Clubs

With Cincinnati in opposition today, Paul Vance takes a look at how IMFC has fared against other expansion clubs?

MLS: Los Angeles FC at Montreal Impact
The last time Impact played an expansion side, at Stade Saputo, April 2018. Despite earlier heroics in keeping the score respectable, Evan Bush is unable to prevent Latif Blessing adding a fifth goal for LAFC.
Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

Montreal’s record against expansion clubs is not exactly stellar.

Five new teams have entered MLS since Montreal made its debut in 2012: Orlando City, NYCFC, Atlanta United, Minnesota United and LAFC. And in 29 contests against these clubs Impact is 8-14-7.

But how have they fared in first-time meetings, the same situation as they face with newcomers FC Cincinnati this afternoon?

Well, it’s not much better either ...

The only victory has been recorded over Atlanta United, just over two years ago at Stade Saputo. The Five Stripes had taken a 40th min lead through former Sunderland striker Kenwyne Jones, but Montreal managed to restore parity in the 5th minute of added time, when referee Alan Kelly adjudged Leandro Pirez to have prevented a goalscoring opportunity.

The moment changed the game. Pirez saw red and Piatti converted the penalty.

With the contest drifting towards a stalemate, another late, late goal won the day for the Impact, Jackson-Hamel deflecting Bernardello’s speculative shot past Alec Kann in the 93rd minute.

It remains the only time Impact has avoided defeat against Atlanta.

MLS: Atlanta United FC at Montreal Impact
Anthony Jackson-Hamel is congratulated by Ambroise Oyongo after scoring a 93rd minute winner against Atlanta United in April 2017. It remains the only winning goal IMFC has scored in a first meeting with an expansion side.
Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

The most dramatic encounter against an expansion team was undoubtedly last year’s Stade Saputo meeting with LAFC. Not only did it mark a swift goalscoring return for Laurent Ciman to the club he represented 109 times, but there were eight goals, a hat-trick for Nacho Piatti, and the overturning of a 3-1 HT lead for the Impact, which finally contrived to lose 3-5!

Orlando City were the new boys in 2015, the only time Impact has ever faced an expansion side at The Big ‘O’. Former World Player of the Year, Kaka was in the Lions line-up and he played a telling part claiming a goal and an assist within a minute of each other. Impact had led 2-0 through Piatti and McInerney, prior to Kaka’s intervention. The game ended 2-2 with all the scoring completed in the first 30 mins.

Orlando City is the only expansion side Impact has a positive record against - 6-3-2.

A first visit to The Bronx in June 2015 was notable for Wandrille Lefevre’s first Impact goal, halving a two-goal deficit in the 88th minute. The revival was short-lived however, Poku scoring two minutes later to seal a 3-1 triumph for The Blues.

David Villa with his first of 5 career goals against the Impact had opened the scoring in the 31st minute.

MLS: New York City FC at Montreal Impact
Wandrille Lefevre in action in the Bronx in 2015. The Frenchman scored his first Impact goal late in the game.
Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports

And that leaves Minnesota United, who came to Montreal in September 2017 and recorded only their second-ever road victory in MLS. Patrice Bernier and Blerim Dzemaili had each scored to establish a 2-1 lead for the Impact, but The Loons came back to win, Ghanian Abu Dunladi grabbing the winner with a minute remaining.

So not a great catalogue of events for the Impact when facing newcomers for the first time. An away win today will not only add respectability to the sequence, but set a new club record for road wins in one season at five.

Here’s hoping ...