A brief Montreal Impact timeline
In December 1992, the Saputo company announces a five-year commitment as owner of a new professional soccer team in Montreal. The Impact kicks off its inaugural season under president Joey Saputo, general manager Pino Asaro and head coach Eddie Firmani. The Impact finishes its first season in the American Professional Soccer League (APSL) last in the standings, but not without completing the season with a seven-game winning streak - a club record that still stands although it has been equalled four times since.
One day before the first game of the season, Valerio Gazzola takes over the team as head coach. The Impact finishes third with a record of 12-8. In the semi-finals, the Impact clinches its first-ever playoff win, over the Los Angeles Salsa, with a decisive shootout in California. Goalkeeper Pat Harrington stops a shot with his face, Patrick Diotte scores the decisive goal and the Impact earns the right to play the final... in Montreal, against the Colorado Foxes. The Impact wins 1-0, thanks to a booming free kick by Jean Harbor. At the final whistle, several hundred of the 8,169 spectators invade the Claude Robillard Stadium field to celebrate Montreal's very first North American pro title in soccer.
The Impact wins the regular-season title with a record of 17-7. Among the players on the roster are Paulinho (photo), Paul Dougherty and Steve Trittschuh. In spite of the overwhelming strength of the Montreal squad, it loses in the first playoff round against an Atlanta Ruckus team which plays a very defensive game. The Impact is eliminated without losing a single game in regulation time, since its two losses over the three-game series are by shootout.
The Impact wins the regular-season title with a record of 21-6. Now recognized as one of the league's premier organizations, the Impact attracts many of the best Canadian players. Among the newcomers that season: Carl Fletcher, Eddy Berdusco and Ian Carter. Also new on the team is a young Jamaican striker, Onandi Lowe, who would eventually play in the 1998 World Cup in France. The Impact is again one of the favourites in the playoffs, but loses in the first round against an expansion team, the Rochester Raging Rhinos.
The league is now called the A-League and the Impact wins the regular-season title, its third in a row, with a record of 21-7. The Montreal squad beats the Toronto Lynx in the first playoff round, but ultimately loses to the Long Island Rough Riders… in a shootout. Players don't get much time off as the Impact kicks off its first indoor season in the NPSL.
With Paul Kitson as head coach, the Impact posts a 21-7 record and earns a fifth straight playoff berth. The Montreal squad beats the Staten Island Vipers in the first playoff round, but loses in the second against an old rival, the Rochester Raging Rhinos, for the second time in three years. In the spring of 1999, Saputo yields the Impact to a group of local businessmen. The new ownership chooses not to play the 1999 outdoor season in order to better prepare the 1999-2000 indoor season, which would be played at Claude-Robillard Sports Complex. It was to be the team's last indoor season.
Back outdoors, the Impact misses the playoffs for the first time since 1993. The team has a bad start to the season, Zoran Jankovic is replaced by Valerio Gazzola as head coach. During the summer, the indoor franchise is sold to a group of Toronto businessmen, while the outdoor franchise is sold to Ionian Financial Group.
The 2001 season was difficult, Ionian's sudden withdrawal in mid-season forced the A-League to take over the team. But by accepting to finish the season despite drastic budgetary cuts, the players basically salvage soccer in Montreal. In spite of the difficult circumstances, the Impact come within only one win of clinching a playoff berth. In 2001, the team still managed to win the Montreal Cup, a six-team international tournament. In the fall, Joey Saputo announces a brand new start for the Montreal Impact, now a non-profit organization whose future is ensured for at least the next five years thanks to the financial support of investors such as the Government of Québec, Hydro-Québec and Saputo.
Coached by Bob Lilley, the Impact finishes the season first in the Northeast Division, tied with the Rochester Raging Rhinos with a record of 16-9-3. The Impact wins the Voyageurs Cup, a trophy awarded to the top team in home-and-home matchups between Canadian teams in the A-League throughout the season. The team attracts an average of 5,174 spectators per game at home, the best attendance average in team history. Forward Eduardo Sebrango sets a new team record with 18 goals and 36 points in one season. The Montreal squad takes part in the playoffs for the sixth time in club history, and reaches the second round for the fourth time. But, the team is eliminated by the Rochester Raging Rhinos... for the third time.
Coached for a second year in a row by Bob Lilley, the Impact finishes second in the league to the Milwaukee Wave United with a 16-6-6 record in 28 games for a total of 54 points. Mauro Biello leads the team in scoring with seven goals and six assists for 20 points. Despite another successful season, the Impact fall to the Rochester Raging Rhinos in the first round of the playoffs by an aggregate score of 2-1, the fourth time the Impact is eliminated by the Rhinos in a playoff series. The United Soccer Leagues honours the Impact with numerous awards, including a Hall of Fame induction for the club. Bob Lilley wins the A-League Coach of the Year honour for the second time in his career. The Montreal Impact finishes the year with the league's lowest goals allowed total and Greg Sutton wins the Goalkeeper of the Year Award for his league-leading 0.73 goals-against average, while logging the most minutes in goal in the league (2,463). Gabriel Gervais wins the A-League Defender of the Year Award. Both Gervais and Sutton were honoured as first team all-stars. The Impact also wins the Voyageurs Cup - a trophy awarded to the top team in home-and-home series between Canadian teams in the A-League throughout the season – and the Can-Am Cup, a mini-tournament between four A-League teams.
Nick De Santis takes over the head coaching duties from Bob Lilley after one season as player-assistant coach and leads the Impact to a 17-6-5 record for 56 points in 28 games. The Impact starts the season off with a record 12-game undefeated streak. Striker Eduardo Sebrango leads the team in scoring with eight goals and three assists for 19 points in 23 games played. Despite suffering many injuries midway through the season, the Impact finishes second overall in the A-League standings behind the Portland Timbers. The Impact meets its arch rival Rochester Raging Rhinos in the first round of the playoffs. In four previous playoff series between these teams (2003, 2002, 1998 and 1996), the Impact don't come out on top. This time, the Impact defeats the Rhinos 1-0 in two matches and goes on to beat the Syracuse Salty Dogs in the semi-finals to earn the right to play in the final against the Seattle Sounders at home. The Impact triumphs over the Sounders 2-0 on goals by Mauricio Vincello and Fred Commodore to win the A-League title, their second North American Championship in team history. The team averaged 9,279 fans at the Claude-Robillard Sports Complex, again improving on the previous year's record by 2,000 fans per home game. Greg Sutton wins League MVP honours and Gabriel Gervais is the league’s Defender of the Year, on top of being the Impact’s Most Valuable Player. De Santis finishes as the runner-up for the Coach of the Year award.
The league is now called the United Soccer League’s First Division. The Impact kicks off its title defense with another undefeated streak, this time for 15 games (10-0-5), a league record. The Impact picks up its fourth regular-season title in club history with a 18-3-7 record, the three losses being a new club record. Montreal only allows 15 goals in 28 games, a league best which allows the team to tie the previous year’s club record. Nick De Santis is crowned Coach of the Year. The team earns a bye into the second round of the playoffs, but loses to the Seattle Sounders. In terms of attendance, the team set a new record for average attendance as well, 11,176 per game, an increase of 20.4% compared to 2004.
The Montreal Impact is the regular-season champion for the second year in a row, the fifth time in its history, and wins the Voyageurs Cup, awarded to the league’s top Canadian team, for the fifth consecutive year. Montreal also boasts the best defense in the league for the fourth straight year, allowing only 15 goals in 28 games. The 10 shutouts collected at home ties a club record, while the four goals conceded at home are a new team record. The Impact also leads the USL D1 in attendance, having played in front of a total of 161,762 people, for an average of 11,554 spectators per home game, compared to 10,064 for the Rochester Raging Rhinos. The Impact also welcomes its 1,000,000th fan on August 25 for a game against the Virginia Beach Mariners. Individually, Gabriel Gervais is named Defender of the Year for the third time of his career.
The Montreal Impact ends the regular season in third place in the USL First Division standings, four points behind the Seattle Sounders and one point behind the Portland Timbers. The Impact is eliminated by the Puerto Rico Islanders in the quarterfinals, 5-3 on aggregate goals. Montreal wins the Voyageurs Cup, awarded to the top Canadian team in the league, for the sixth consecutive year. With 14 shutouts this season, the Impact shutout its opponent in more than 50% of its games (14 of 28) for a fourth straight season and registers on the road, the best record in the league(7-3-4, 25 points). Forward Charles Gbeke is the top scorer in the USL First Division, with 10 goals, tying Seattle Sounders forward Sébastien Letoux. It is the last season played at Claude-Robillard Sports Complex. After 176 games in that stadium, the Impact tallied a record of 115-43-18, (278 GF - 132 GA). Since 1993, a total of 1,088,087 spectators attended Impact games in Montreal.
2008 was groundbreaking for the Impact on many levels. The Impact inaugurated its new home, Stade Saputo, May 19 against Vancouver. After a difficult start to the season, the Impact climbs in the USL First Division standings and finishes the season third with a record of 12-12-6. Nick De Santis becomes technical director and John Limniatis takes over the head coach position on June 10. In the playoffs, Montreal eliminates the Seattle Sounders 4-3 on aggregate goals, but is defeated in the semifinals 2-1 against the eventual champions, the Vancouver Whitecaps. Meanwhile, the Impact wins the inaugural Nutrilite Canadian Championship, July 22, in Toronto, following a 1-1 tie against Toronto FC of Major League Soccer. Goalkeeper Matt Jordan is named Most Valuable Player of the team in this tournament. The Canadian Champions move up to the preliminary round of the CONCACAF Champions League. The Impact beats Real Estelí FC (Nicaragua) 1-0, on an aggregate goal home-and-away series, and makes it to the group phase. Considered the underdog in this competition, the Impact finishes second in group C with a record of three wins, one loss and two ties, earning a bye for the quarterfinal round. Then in the quarterfinal round, the Impact makes history again on February 25, 2009, by winning 2-0 against Mexican club Santos Laguna in front of 55,571 spectators at Olympic Stadium. However, the Impact is eliminated from the CONCACAF Champions League 5-4 on aggregate goals, after a 5-2 loss in the away-game played on March 5 in Torreon, Mexico.
After starting the 2009 season with a five-game winless streak, Marc Dos Santos takes over for John Limniatis as interim head coach. Despite a rise-and-fall sequence of games and a counterperformance during the Nutrilite Canadian Championship, the Impact finishes the regular season with an eight-game undefeated streak. The team finishes the season fifth in the general standings and clinches a spot in the playoffs. The Impact tallies six consecutive victories to capture a third playoff championship in its history after winning the title in 1994 and 2004. In the championship final, the Impact wins the aggregate goal home-and-away series, defeating its Canadian rivals, the Vancouver Whitecaps, with a 6-3 score, 3-2 on October 10 at Swangard Stadium, and 3-1 on October 17 at Stade Saputo. Forward Roberto Brown receives the championship series MVP award, after registering one goal and one pass during the return match. Brown also finishes the regular season as leading scorer of the club for a second straight year with seven goals and three assists for 17 points. Midfielder David Testo receives the Impact’s MVP award, while Marc Dos Santos is finalist for the league’s Coach of the Year award. The organization officializes his title as head coach on November 13, 2009, confirming his return for the 2010 and 2011 seasons.
After a tough start, the Impact finished the 2010 campaign with a solid record of 6-1-0. During that sequence, Montreal scored 16 goals, while only allowing three. Marc Dos Santos’ team concluded the season in sixth place with 12 wins, 11 losses and seven ties for a total of 43 points. In the playoffs, the Impact couldn’t duplicate its success from 2009. After eliminating Austin in the first round, Montreal lost in the semifinal to the Carolina RailHawks. Named Newcomer of the Year, forward Ali Gerba ended the season as the team’s leading scorer with nine goals and one assist for 19 points in only 13 games. Philippe Billy was awarded the Giuseppe Saputo Trophy, given to the most valuable player of the season. He also earned the Defensive player title after playing 2,423 minutes in regular season play. In 2010, the Impact played two international friendlies against first division Italian clubs: AC Milan and Fiorentina. On June 2, 47,861 spectators attended the Impact-AC Milan matchup at Olympic Stadium, with Milan aligning international stars Ronaldinho, Pato, Inzaghi and Seedorf.
With the club in transition for its debut in Major League Soccer in 2012, several veterans retire during the offseason, including goalkeeper Matt Jordan, defender Adam Braz, midfielder Patrick Leduc and striker Eduardo Sebrango. In its 16th and final season in the North American second division, the Impact has a difficult start to the season, winning only one of its first seven games of the season. Head coach Marc Dos Santos resigns on June 28 and sporting director Nick De Santis replaces him behind the bench on an interim basis. Sebrango, a veteran of six seasons with the Impact, returns to the field on June 29 and reenergizes the attack with six goals. With the arrival of several players in the summer transfer market, including Cameron Knowles, Miguel Montano, Ryan Pore, Sinisa Ubiparipovic and Ian Westlake, the team registers the second best record through all NASL teams in the second half of the season, with seven wins, three losses and four ties. During that sequence, the team ranks first offensively with 24 goals in 14 games and second defensively with a 0.86 GAA. However, the Impact misses the playoffs, finishing in seventh place, only one point behind the eventual NASL champions Minnesota Stars. The Impact concludes its history in North American second division with 265 wins, 155 losses and 71 ties, in 491 regular season games, two playoff championships and seven Canadian championships. French defender/midfielder Hassoun Camara is named the Impact MVP while goalkeeper Evan Bush wins the NASL Golden Glove and Impact Defensive Player of the Year award. In a friendly match on May 11, the Impact shuts out the New York Red Bulls in front of a sold-out crowd at Stade Saputo. On Aug. 10, the Impact announces the nomination of Jesse Marsch as head coach for 2012. The Stade Saputo expansion work officially begins on Oct. 3.
The Bleu-blanc-noir officially makes its debut in Major League Soccer, the first division of soccer in North America, with a brand-new team logo, but also some new faces: Donovan Ricketts, Davy Arnaud, Nelson Rivas, Zarek Valentin, to name a few. But its biggest signing came in the form of its first Designated Player, Marco Di Vaio, signed on May 24, 2012. A few weeks later, the Impact came to an agreement with legendary centre-back Alessandro Nesta, and he was officially transferred from AC Milan on July 3, 2012, making his debut in an international friendly against Olympique Lyonnais on July 24. With head coach Jesse Marsch at the helm, the team struggled in its first year, but finished just two spots shy of a playoff berth with a record of 12-16-6. The club’s first goal in MLS was scored by captain Davy Arnaud, in the second game of the season, against the Chicago Fire at Olympic Stadium.
Swiss coach Marco Schällibaum takes over the 2013 season and the team is off to a solid start, winning its first four games. Marco Di Vaio, in his second season with the team, is a finalist for the MLS Most Valuable Player Award, after scoring 20 goals in 33 games, just the 11th time in league history that someone reached that plateau at the time. In spite of losing four of its last five games of the season, the Bleu-blanc-noir finishes fifth with a record of 14-13-7 and clinches the last playoff spot, a first since its debut in MLS. The team squares off against the Houston Dynamo in the knockout phase and loses 3-0 to the Texan team. In Canadian Championship play, the Impact faced Toronto FC in the semifinals, losing the first leg in Ontario 2-0, before coming back home and hammering the Reds 6-0. After a 0-0 draw at Stade Saputo in the final’s first leg against the Vancouver Whitecaps, the Impact would earn a 2-2 draw at BC Place, highlighted by a late goal from defender Hassoun Camara, thus clinching the Canadian championship for the first time since the club joined MLS. The Impact automatically qualifies for the Concacaf Champions League, but fails to get past the group stage.
With new manager Frank Klopas replacing Marco Schällibaum, the Bleu-blanc-noir has a difficult season, finishing with a record of 6-18-10, in last place in the Eastern Conference. On July 2, the Impact announces the signing of Designated Player Ignacio Piatti from Argentine club San Lorenzo. In Canadian Championship play, the Impact qualified for the final after beating FC Edmonton 5-4 through two legs. After drawing the first leg at BMO Field in Toronto 1-1, the Impact comes back to Stade Saputo and beats Toronto FC 1-0, thanks to a half-volley in stoppage time from Felipe. The Bleu-blanc-noir qualifies for the Concacaf Champions League for the second straight year, finding themselves in a group with the New York Red Bulls and Salvadorian side Club Deportivo FAS. With three wins and a draw, the Impact tops the group and qualifies for the quarter-finals, which begin in February of 2015. At the end of the season, the Impact’s first ever Designated Player, Marco Di Vaio, officially announces his retirement, ending his MLS career with 34 goals.
The Bleu-blanc-noir gets off to a difficult start, winning just one of its first five games. In Concacaf Champions League, Montreal’s first opponent is Mexican side Pachuca. The Impact travels to Mexico for the first leg and draws 2-2, thanks to two goals from Dilly Duka, giving the Quebec side two key away goals. Back home, Montreal is down 1-0 in the game’s final moments, when in the 94th minute, Calum Mallace goes cross-field to find striker Cameron Porter, who pokes the ball between the goalkeeper’s legs to tie the game, allowing the Bleu-blanc-noir to qualify on away goals. After beating Costa Rican club Alajuelense in the semifinals, the Impact books its place in the final against Mexican giant Club América. Despite a 1-1 draw in Mexico, at the Azteca, the Impact loses 4-2 in front of over 60,000 supporters at Olympic Stadium and comes close to making history. On July 27, 2015, the Bleu-blanc-noir makes another splash on the international scene with the signing of Ivorian star Didier Drogba. The former Chelsea striker takes the league by storm, scoring 11 goals in 11 games and nine starts. With assistant-coach Mauro Biello replacing Frank Klopas at the end of August, the Bleu-blanc-noir loses just two games in its last 11 and qualifies for the playoffs, finishing third overall with a 15-13-6 record, and facing Toronto FC in the knockout round. The Torontonians, in their first playoff appearance in club history, were beaten 3-0, setting up a home-and-away series in the Conference semi-final against the Columbus Crew SC. The Impact takes the first game 2-1, with goals from Bernier and Venegas, but loses 2-1 at MAPFRE Stadium. In extra-time, Kei Kamara scores the lone goal to knock out the Bleu-blanc-noir.
With head coach Mauro Biello at the helm, the Impact finishes fifth with a record of 11-11-12, qualifying for the playoffs for the third time in five MLS seasons. In the knockout game against D.C. United, a collective performance highlighted by two goals from Italian striker Matteo Mancosu, who joined the team in the middle of the season, leads the Bleu-blanc-noir to the Conference semi-final for the second straight year, this time for a matchup against the first-place New York Red Bulls. Entering the contest as an underdog, the Impact wins 1-0 at home, thanks to a 61st minute goal by Mancosu. Then, at Red Bull Arena, the Argentinean Ignacio Piatti scores a brace to propel his team to the Conference final for the first time in history. The opponent? Toronto FC. In a memorable all-Canadian clash, the two rivals went head-to-head to claim the honour of being the first Canadian team to earn a spot in an MLS Cup Final. In front of a sell-out crowd at Olympic Stadium, the Bleu-blanc-noir comes out to a flying start, leading by three goals after 63 minutes. But the Reds responded with two goals in the span of five minutes for a final score of 3-2 going into the second leg. At BMO Field, Toronto FC wins the decisive game 3-2, forcing extra-time, where the Reds would score twice to ultimately win the matchup 7-5 on aggregate goals.
For the second straight season, Mauro Biello begins the season as head coach. The Impact says farewell to Didier Drogba in the offseason after the team’s playoff run. After numerous ups and downs in the first half of the season, the Impact goes on a four-game winning streak in August and puts itself in a good position to contend for a playoff spot, while adding Canadian international Samuel Piette to the squad. But the Bleu-blanc-noir would lose nine of its last 10 games and finish 11 points shy of the last playoff spot, with a record of 11-17-6. The 2017 season also marked the end of an era for the club, with captain Patrice Bernier and long-time defender Hassoun Camara announcing their retirement. French coach Rémi Garde is announced as the head coach for the 2018 season, replacing Mauro Biello.