Soccer

Butler: Hardly happy as Larry be them Eastern leaders

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Noel Butler
3/22/2013 1:30:38 PM
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Anyone in the vicinity of the Montreal Impact locker room following their 2-1 victory against their arch rivals in front of a highly raucous Olympic Stadium crowd last Saturday afternoon would have observed an infectious contentment of a most quiet kind.

The scene had been set minutes earlier as gaffa Marco Schallibaum held his traditional post match presser informing the media throng his players were not happy.

Not happy? What did they have to miserable about - they'd just left the pitch with their perfect start to the season still very much intact. A highly improbable three victories secured from three matches played so far. 

Not enough of the mood enhancer it seemed for a disparate bunch that claim roots from Brossard, Quebec on through the heart of various European football outposts and all the way back across the pond to Nederland, TX all the way down to the highly apropos named Argentine enclave of Bell Ville.

No wonder the club reached out to a wily multilingual Swiss sage capable of transitioning through French, Italian, English and German with the same ease Messi glides past hapless defenders the world over.

Football is played over 90 minutes and the players were not one bit happy with a second half performance that allowed their wounded opponent dictate the play.

Speaking to TSN Radio 690 in the week Patrice Bernier did his level best to explain away why it was the team he has performed so majestically for since returning home back in December 2011 and who top the Eastern Conference had come over all gloomy.

"I'd say you're happy but you're not satisfied," was the favourite football son of Brossard, Quebec's take on the home opener.

"Of course no game is the same, no game can be perfect but we do know that in the second half we made mistakes. We felt we made easy mistakes that allowed them to get back in the game."

Generous in his praise was Bernier, as Toronto FC applied themselves in their unlikely attempt at the comeback. "Give them credit they pressured a lot higher in the second half, they put out a lot of energy."

The 2012 Impact MVP was realistic enough to state that at the end the day the players welcomed another 3 points and acknowledged not every game could be pretty.

He's bang on. It matters not one iota that on the balance of play the Impact's opponents have deserved to get something from any of the three games so far.

We all know whether it be a Champions League Final, a World Cup Semi Final that the 'balance of play' has yet to score a meaningful goal in any football match.

All is coming up rosy on the pitch as spring blooms in la belle ville ahead of the real home opener at Stade Saputo in mid-April as the club's font office looks to capitalize on the perfect start.

At the Impact's season opener in Seattle Don Garber stated club president Joey Saputo does not receive enough credit for what he does.

While you're at it add the Executive Vice President of the Impact and Stade Saputo to that list Mr. Commissioner.

Anyone who has been around the Impact for the last few years would be aware of the pivotal role Richard Legendre performs for the club.

Having joined the club in summer 2007 without Legendre's role and influence Stade Saputo would not be the football building it is today.

The ex-tennis professional has some previous it seems.

In the 1990's Legendre was a senior executive with Tennis Canada and in his time oversaw the refurbishment and renewal of Jarry Park into one of the most successful tennis venues in the world. Or as the official Tennis Canada website puts it, "[Legendre] was the master craftsman in the transformation of the baseball stadium into a world-class tennis centre."

Reached by TSN.ca Thursday, Legendre it seemed had been infected by that quiet contentment that ran rampant in the locker room last Saturday.

He was certainly not getting carried away with life atop the Eastern Conference when asked if nine points from nine had resulted in a bounce in season ticket demand or for club merchandise.

"It's never easy to sell soccer in March. The two wins on the road gave us good coverage in the media and helped the build up for the home opener, where the 38,000 spectators created a great atmosphere. There were a lot of people wearing blue and buying Impact colours to show their support" - exclaimed the Exec VP.

Having been wildly optimistic with their estimations of season ticket sales for the inaugural season this  off season the Impact invoked EU austerity type measures as they dramatically revised numbers down for 2013 to the more realistic 8,000.

Legendre revealing yesterday, "We are close to 8,000 season tickets. We have until April 13, which is the first game at Stade Saputo."

When pressed to state what the biggest challenge Franchise No. 19 faces as it continues to increase their revenue base to meet their increased expenditure and direct investment obligations Legendre remained firmly fixated with bums on seats. 

"The biggest challenge is to reach our ticket sales objectives and to be in the Top 5 in the league in attendance as we have high projection, despite the novelty of our historic first season in MLS having passed."

Now that novelty factor had switched out of 2012's baptism of fire which led to a parting of the ways with their head coach to a seemingly uncomfortable existence looking down on their conference rivals.

Don't though make the foolhardy mistake to think any  indifference to acknowledge they were currently the runaway leaders in the league wide race for the Supporters Shield was proof positive last season's dressing room divisions had not been entirely flushed away.

 If anybody doubts the existence of that close family type attitude that nourishes a two-decade long held club philosophy just needed to be in the bowels of Olympic Stadium an hour or so after last Saturday's final whistle.

As players and senior club officials departed the building the number of Impact jersey clad kids in tow seemed to strongly suggest the next generation hadn't fallen very far from the Impact football family tree.
 
You can reach and follow Noel Butler at:
Noel.Butler@BellMedia.ca
@TheSoccerNoel
 
Montreal Impact Vs New York Red Bulls from Olympic Stadium will broadcast on MLS Live this Saturday, with coverage kicking off at 4:30pm et/1:30pm pt.

Patrice Bernier (Photo: Abelimages/Getty Images)

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(Photo: Abelimages/Getty Images)
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