The Crew travels to Stade Saputo on Saturday to kick off its season series with the Montreal Impact (2:00 p.m. ET / FOX Sports Ohio). Before the Black & Gold take on the second-year side from Quebec, get to know a few things about the Impact.
SUCCESS IN YEAR TWO
Only in Major League Soccer can expansion sides be primed for success in their first few seasons. Following the road map Seattle Sounders FC, Philadelphia Union and Vancouver Whitecaps FC have followed in the past, the Montreal Impact has its eye set on the MLS Cup Playoffs in just its second season in MLS.
Selected by Seattle Sounders FC in the 2008 MLS Expansion Draft and traded to the Impact before the club's inaugural season in 2012, Crew leftback Tyson Wahl has seen two different successful expansion stories in MLS first hand.
"It was two completely different experiences," Wahl explained. "[In Seattle], as a team we collectively got off to the right start. We were on fire and everything, the fans and the whole situation was a perfect storm."
"Last year [in Montreal] was a little bit different," the defender continued. "It was little more challenging, but they've done a good job of setting things up."
Missing the playoffs by 11 points in its first season, the Impact brought in pieces such as Italian midfielder Andrea Pisanu and Swiss Head Coach Marco Schällibaum to compliment Designated Player Marco Di Vaio. The moves have paid off as the Impact won its first four matches of 2012, including tilts in Seattle and Portland, and currently sit in first-place of the MLS Eastern Conference.
"[Montreal] had a good team last year, and obviously they've added some good pieces in the offseason to help out Di Vaio up top with Pisanu from Italy," Crew Technical Director Brian Bliss said. "The core of that group is still together and the first four weeks they were 4-0."
"They're doing quite well and I think they're going to be a very tough task for us on the road."
INFLUENCE FROM ACROSS THE POND
Reflecting the French and Italian influences that can be found in the city of Montreal, Impact owner Joey Saputo has built his club to identify with Montreal's citizens. In addition to Swiss Head Coach Marco Schällibaum, nine Impact players hail from Europe.
"Because of the European influence in Montreal, they have a knowledgeable fan base, a very passionate fan base," Bliss said. "The Impact has brought in a very European influence with their coach and a lot of their signings. They're well-coached, they have a well-constructed roster."
Added Wahl: "You can definitely see the Italian representation. They definitely have pride in signing some of the local French-Canadians. And it's not like they're just bringing in anyone. They have big name players and a quality squad. It's going to be a tough game."
DANGEROUS DI VAIO
Picking-up from his five goals and three assists in 17 appearances in 2012, striker Marco Di Vaio has already hit the back of the net twice in 2013. The 36-year-old Italian scored 195 goals playing in Europe prior to coming to MLS last season.
"You look at what he did last year, he still has the speed and the knack to score goals," Bliss said of the Italian.
Chad Marshall and Gláuber will be responsible for limiting Di Vaio's impact on Saturday in central defense. Di Vaio tallied once in two matches against the Crew last season.