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Butler: Impact ready to take on Red Bulls at Olympic Stadium

Noel Butler
4/4/2014 4:45:23 PM
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This time last week, Montreal was awash with nostalgia for their Expos as Olympic Stadium formed the backdrop to Major League Baseball's weekend residency in la belle ville. 

On Saturday afternoon, the Impact reclaim the building when they face the New York Red Bulls for the second of three fixtures scheduled at the venue this season.

MLS's 19th franchise kicked off their eve of game preparations very early Friday morning with news that 2012's first overall SuperDraft pick Andrew Wenger had been traded to the Union. In return, the Impact picking up from the city of brotherly love Jack McInerney. A raw talent, who just like the Impact, got off to a flyer in 2013.

McInerney's Midas touch in front of goal through spring 2013 got such rave reviews it got the attention of America's favourite German, Jürgen Klinsman - who named the Tennessee native to last summer's US Gold Cup squad. 

Living in this era of instant gratification, the Twitter jury needed no time to deliberate on which club got the better of the deal. It still baffles why in 2012's Super Draft Jesse Marsch took Wenger when the considered opinion was Darren Mattocks.

Not meant as a slight to Wenger, it's just that Mattocks ticked much more of the better prospect boxes going forward.

In a chat I had with Mattocks on the eve of that draft, the young Jamaican said he modeled his game on Liverpool's Fernando Torres. Having watched Wenger up close over this time I'm still not sure he himself is fully convinced he can fulfill what's required of an out and out striker in MLS.

However moving to his home club provides Wenger with perfect opportunity to fulfill his potential and prove all his naysayers wrong. 

As for the Impact, the diminutive McInerney - whose goal production dramatically dried up as the 2013 season wore on – working in tandem with Di Vaio is a mouth-watering prospect. Learn at the Italian's shoulder he most certainly must.

That's for the future. As is which club ultimately reap the greatest rewards for the deal.

Saturday's match brings together a pair of teams still in search of their first three-point outing of the season.

For those who state the Impact's poor start is merely a continuation of their shambolic under- performing selfs from the end of 2013, how then to quantify the Red Bulls' poor start?

This was a club which marched quite resplendently to a Supporters Shield title on the back of a sole defeat in their last 10 matches.

This season has been a mirror of 2013's 0-2-2 start for the Red Bulls thanks to a 95th minute goal from defender Péguy Luyindula during last Sunday afternoon's 1-1 draw at home against Chivas.

Nobody needs reminding how the Impact salvaged the late tie against McInerney et al in Chester, PA. 
Guilty as charged. Hands up. Not only did I think Di Vaio would take at least a few games to get in the groove and find his scoring boots after serving his 3 match suspension I also wondered without his school child friend Alessandro Nesta no longer in tow how that would affect. Apparently not in the slightest.

Whether or not the 38-year-old gets to take the same Olympic Stadium pitch with a certain 36-year-old Frenchman stepping out for the Red Bulls is quite literally up in the air.

Henry trained with his team this morning at their multi-million dollar training facility in Hannover, NJ where following lunch they were due to board a late afternoon flight to Montreal.

Thierry Henry's aversion to so termed 'plastic pitches' is well established in his time in the league. He, along with 2010 MLS defender of the year Jamison Olave, stayed home when the Red Bulls opened their season in Vancouver.

My, how they missed Olave as the Whitecaps set upon their opponent with a level and intensity any club will do well to match through the season! Which begs the question - what happens if the Whitecaps host the Red Bulls in the MLS Cup?

Having arrived stateside following South Africa 2010, Henry is out of contract at the end of the season.

Although not ever one to have the likes of Ellen DeGeneres have him suit up as a store clerk (Henry's more inclined to take the subway to work) there is no denying the additional magic the ex-Arsenal and Barca man has provided MLS.

I'm told Henry has quite the goal scoring record against the Impact. Goals have been in the shortest of supplies for the Impact so far this season - whilst conversely they are still conceding the softest of goals. As they did through the course of the pre-season.

Elementary defensive errors are supposed to be the easiest to iron out as a season progresses. 

Four of the Impact's next five games are at home – including, as they see it, their real home opener at Saputo Stadium on April 26 against McInerney's old flame the Philadelphia Union. There can be no more excuses.

Unless a fully 90-minute focused team shows up and even without the services of one of the most feared strike forces at their disposal you can be sure the Red Bull's will exploit a team low in confidence and likely at its most vulnerable since Davy Arnaud led them out in Vancouver back in March of 2012.

An expected crowd of 25,000 plus will be hoping that team which started 2013 so magnificently rediscover that form. As does the Impact's new recruit who will take the Olympic Stadium action in from his suburban Philadelphia home.

Don't be surprised after last Saturday's unprecedented show of emotion and walk down Expos memory way if the aroma of peanuts and crackerjack is still in the air.

You can reach and follow Noel Butler at:
Noel.Butler@BellMedia.ca
@TheSoccerNoel on Twitter

Montreal Impact vs. New York Red Bulls live on TSN Radio 690 (TSN690.ca) Saturday 4pm et  - Rick Moffat [@RickMoffat] and Grant Needham [@GrantNeedham] with your call.

Noel Butler

Noel Butler


Noel Butler is an analyst for TSN's soccer coverage and his blog can be read on TSN.ca. You can follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/TheSoccerNoel and listen to his radio program oranges@halftime on TSN Radio 690 Montreal.

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