Butler: Impact home cooking put to the KC road mettle

Noel Butler
9/21/2012 4:50:21 PM
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Mathematics tells us the Impact are still in the playoff hunt - the law of probability says otherwise.

Even though his attention has begun drifting towards sophomore season improvements and all those inherent responsibilities as the Impact's Sporting Director - Nick De Santis remains the rational optimist that the club's season can somehow extend itself through November.

"We've got 12 wins, we're still in a playoff hunt where the chances are very slim but we put ourselves in position to keep fighting and keep everyone still interested," De Santis explained to TSN Radio.

A defining moment occurs Saturday afternoon when MLS's newest kid on the block has the opportunity to become the very first team in the league this season to record an 11th victory at home.

Standing in the way for the Impact to reach that plateau is the Eastern Conference leading Sporting KC. A team that just this past Wednesday evening knocked the New York Red Bulls off their unbeaten at home perch.

Apart from bringing the likes of one of the league's most influential young players and 2011's rookie of the year in CJ Sapong and, to many, the league's best goalkeeper in Jimmy Nielsen for good measure Sporting KC also come packed with one of the most promising and gifted players in the entire league, Graham Zusi.

More significantly than all this unbridled individual talent, no team performs better on the road than Sporting KC. Not only has the club accumulated more wins than any other team in the league this season, they have suffered just the solitary away defeat courtesy of more than the solitary goal.

Zusi puts Sporting KC's road warrior status down to a club wide ethic and attitude. Explaining to TSN Radio, "It's a mentality that we've been able to establish. You see a lot of teams in this league when they go away from home and they're pretty satisfied with playing for a draw."

"A lot of the teams will bunker in and produce some damage control for the whole match. That's something we don't do, really at all. It's something we pride ourselves on being able to go away from home and really push the tempo of the match to our liking." Zusi theorized.

"I think that's really bode well for us this season especially with our record on the road and our ability to score goals on the road as well."

Even though on their previous trip to la belle ville they came away with the points, Zusi scoring the eventual winner from the spot, he was highly respective of his opponent back on July 4th.

"That was one with tough conditions, a tough environment to play in. For us to come out on top, especially after going down early in the 2nd half it took a pretty gutsy performance from us. It really boosted our confidence headed home." Was how MLS's most outstanding playmaker described it.

De Santis echoing Zusi's take. "KC have proven that they're a team that has a certain mindset whether they are at home or on the road. There is a certain system in place that they follow and abide by it. There's continuity, there's consistency, there's confidence and we know that we're up for a big challenge.

"They want to come in and for sure they're looking at the points they have and they want to finish 1st so we know we have a big challenge ahead of us but we know as well that at home we've beaten the best."

Since the Impact returned to their spiritual home in mid-June significant scalps at Saputo Stadium include Seattle, Houston, New York, Columbus and most recently DC United. Five magnificent victories at a combined rate of more than three goals a game. 

Not a shabby return on the investment as the club upgraded and redefined a stadium that is one of the league's true fortresses. Or as De Santis preferred to put it, "We've shown that are quality of play and our mentality and with the help of our support and our fans it's a difficult place to play in"

Adding to Saturday afternoon's occasion is Saputo Stadium; the finished article.

Having arrived back on October 4th last year on the evening the club held its annual end of season awards banquet in a short ceremony club President Joey Saputo broke ground and now some 11 plus months on the hard hats have finally left the building.

The match will be played out in front of the stadium's 20,341 capacity for the very first time.  Something De Santis is very much looking forward to.

"It's special and I think that's why we feel that responsibility of making sure that we keep showing them [the fans] that we're totally committed. I can assure you that the players are going to come out there to win the game."

Charged by what is sure to be a frenzied and highly partisan home crowd. That in parts will stand and stomp for the entire 90 minutes alongside a packed out prawn sandwich brigade clapping and cheering along from their luxurious look out posts.

The immovable home object going for a football dance off against the road savvy irresistible force. 

The match has all the ingredients to be the most epic MLS encounter ever witnessed so far in this, Montreal's latest most memorable of football seasons.


Thursday afternoon over at Saputo Stadium was official MLS photo day. An event the club ordinarily would have staged much earlier in the season. Bernardo Corrardi's season ending injury suffered in training back in June where he returned home for surgery put paid to that idea. The club's early season goal scoring leader returned to the Impact fold for a flying visit earlier this week and will take in Saturday's match before returning home to continue his 6-month long recuperation period.


When asked who he models his playing style on Graham Zusi disclosed he could not get enough Zinadine Zidane as a kid growing up in Fort Lauderdale. "I was a huge Zidane fan growing up. He was a guy who I was constantly watching video of and he was by far my favorite player. I try to model my game on him as much as possible."


In some quarters speculation is rife Alessandro Nesta would return to the San Siro for a short loan period next January. In between bouts of giggles when the question was put to him De Santis did manage to compose himself long enough to state the 5 words that will gladden the cockles and hearts of all Impact fans plus many of the top quality forwards that litter Serie A. "No substance what so ever," was all De Santis would offer as response. Over to you rumour mill. Maybe the next one will involve a Ferrari.

Montreal Impact v Sporting KC Live on TSN Saturday – Kick Off 1:00pm et / 10:00am pt

Noel Butler

Noel Butler

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


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