While the Montreal Impact hope a third different coach to start their third MLS season won’t hinder the club’s progress, FC Dallas is banking on a former star to lead the team back to the playoffs after a two-year absence.
Frank Klopas makes his coaching debut for the Impact on Saturday night when they visit a Dallas team now guided by fan favorite Oscar Pareja.
In the franchise’s second year of existence, Montreal went 14-13-7 and reached the playoffs for the first time. Though the overall accomplishment was impressive, the Impact managed five goals while finishing the year on a 1-7-1 slide that included a 3-0 loss at Houston in the knockout round.
Coach and director of player personal Marco Schallibaum was replaced by Klopas, who went 39-29-23 in three years as Chicago’s coach before stepping down there after last season.
“The support here is tremendous, I saw that in the last (two years) playing against the team,” Klopas told the Impact’s official website. “It’s exciting.”
Helping Klopas with the transition and further building ties with the team and fan base will be former Montreal fan favorite and longtime Italian defender Alessandro Nesta, who joined the staff as a consultant after retiring last season.
Klopas will have 20-goal scorer Marco Di Vaio leading the way again this season, but not for the opener. Di Vaio, who turns 38 in July, will miss this contest while serving a suspension held over from last season.
He won’t have veteran Davy Arnaud at all after the Impact traded the midfielder to D.C. United for an international roster spot in 2014 and 2015. The former captain had five goals and eight assists during his two seasons in Montreal.
The Impact also will be without injured defender Adrian Lopez early on as he recovers from knee surgery.
Montreal lost 2-1 at Dallas in 2012 and the clubs played a scoreless draw in Canada last season.
An MLS Cup finalist in 2010, Dallas went 11-12-11 in 2013 to miss the playoffs for the second straight season. Schellas Hyndman stepped down as coach after last season, opening the door for Pareja to leave the same position in Colorado and return to Dallas.
Pareja had 13 goals with 47 assists in eight seasons for FCD, and also served in various roles with the team, including an assistant coach, after retiring. He went 25-30-13 with the Rapids.
“We couldn’t be happier to be bringing Oscar home to Dallas,” team president Dan Hunt said. “Oscar has been part of our FC Dallas family for more than 10 years and helped shape our youth development and academy programs into what they are today. We couldn’t imagine a better fit for our professional team and our goal of building a championship club.”
Pareja’s club will be paced by forward Blas Perez, who had a team-leading 11 goals in 25 MLS games in 2013. Underachieving forward Fabian Castillo hopes to bounce back after he recorded two goals last season following a career-high six in 2012.
Castillo could benefit from the addition of fellow Colombian Andres Escobar, who was acquired on loan from Ukrainian power Dynamo Kiev.