It didn’t take very long for the Montreal Impact and Houston Dynamo to start disliking each other.
The bad blood between the two began just as soon as the Impact introduced themselves to MLS, when erstwhile head coach Jesse Marsch controversially picked Dynamo veteran Brian Ching in the Impact’s expansion draft in 2011. Dynamo fans were upset with the fact that the Impact picked their legendary forward even after he had threatened to retire if ever he was chosen by Montreal, while Impact fans didn’t appreciate, what was in their eyes, a stubborn unwillingness on the part of Ching to change clubs.
Though the Hawaiian native eventually returned to Houston in a later trade just before the start of the 2012 season, the damage was already done and a rivalry was born.
Both teams have played to some memorable games over the last two seasons.
The Impact’s very first meeting with the Dynamo came in June 2012, which was Montreal’s inaugural match at the newly expanded Stade Saputo. It was a thrilling high-scoring affair, which finished 4-2 in favor of the home side. The encounter also marked the return of Ching to Montreal, and, to no one’s surprise, every one of the forward’s touches on the ball was met with a shower of boos and insults from the home crowd. The stadium atmosphere was further intensified after midfielder Adam Moffat was shown a red card for a dangerous tackle on Impact playmaker Felipe.
Last season, in what was arguably their best game since joining MLS, Montreal dismantled Houston 5-0 at Stade Saputo, but the Dynamo would have the last laugh at the end of the year as they easily eliminated the Impact from the first round of the playoffs with a 3-0 win - that was also a hectic game as three Montreal players were sent off by the end.
On Saturday, the Impact and the Dynamo will renew hostilities, as the teams face off in their second game of the season at BBVA Compass stadium, a ground where Montreal has yet to win in four attempts (0-3-1).
Despite having lost their opening game 3-2 away to FC Dallas, the Impact could took away many positives from their performance.
Having to make do without star striker Marco Di Vaio, who was serving the first of a three-game suspension for an altercation with the Dynamo’s Corey Ashe in last year’s playoffs, one widespread concern in the lead up to the game was that the Impact would struggle to generate offense. The Impact’s attack, however, proved to be a constant threat to the Dallas backline. Andrew Wenger, in particular, who played as the lone striker, impressed with a strong all-around performance, including a superb headed goal in the second half. The Impact will be hoping for a similar performance against the Dynamo.
Though the Impact did concede three goals against Dallas and looked shaky at times defensively, right fullback Eric Miller showed lot of maturity and poise in what was his debut in MLS. There’s a good chance that Miller will find himself with a second consecutive start on Saturday.
Containing the Dynamo attack will, however, be a hard task for the Impact, as Houston looked very sharp in its opening game last weekend where it handed the New England Revolution a comprehensive 4-0 drubbing.
Like the Impact, the Dynamo haven’t made many changes this offseason, and there is a sense that perhaps this might be the year Dominic Kinnear’s’ men finally take a step back and miss out on the playoffs. However, the Dynamo have a real opportunity to send a message of intent around the league by getting their season off to a quick start with two wins.
Frank Klopas’ team won’t lack motivation for this game either: that playoff loss to Houston still lingers in the back of the players’ minds and they certainly don’t want to return to Montreal empty-handed.
It should be a hotly contested game. At this point, it’s difficult to expect anything less from these two.
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