Longtime Soccer Fans Boost Montreal Players In New League
04/24/12 10:50AM By Ric Cengeri, Ric Cengeri  Download MP3
Area soccer fans may be familiar with the Montreal Impact. The team has been in existence since 1993. But this is the first year the Impact has made the jump to Major League Soccer - the top rung of the soccer ladder in the U.S. and Canada.
VPR's Ric Cengeri recently attended a game between the Impact and their arch rivals, Toronto F.C., to see how the franchise is faring in its new league.
It's early days for the Impact in Major League Soccer, but that hasn't stopped fans from finding their way to Olympic Stadium. The team has averaged over 40,000 fans per game in their first two home contests.
At one end of the stadium, an entire group of fans are decked out in Impact blue. They bang drums and wave large flags. This special group of supporters makes sure that things never get dull for the game's full 90 minutes. They call themselves Ultras Montreal 2002. Or the Ultras.
Julian Proulx is a new member of the fan club but he fully understands what it takes to be an Ultra.
"You have to jump around all game long and you have to scream and shout out for your team," Proulx said.
Lena Donofrio of Montreal brought her family to the game for a fun day out and offered her critique of the team.
"I think it's a good team, and as Montrealers we're faithful fans to all our sports teams so I think we're going to do good."
In a well-played match that delighted the home crowd, the Impact recorded their first MLS victory. They held on to beat Toronto, 2-1.
The Impact players were pleased with their performance and are happy to have the team in the top league. Impact midfielder Patrice Bernier was born and raised in the Montreal area.
"It's nice to be home," Bernier said. "Nice to be around friends and family. It's nice to be in an environment that I grew up in. And it's nice that the club has reached this level also for Quebec soccer and Canadian soccer, also. To have another third franchise that is at the top of the level in North America."
Goalkeeper Greg Sutton is a native Canadian, but his parents now live in New Hampshire. He thinks having the Impact in the MLS is a boon for the area.
"It's great for the Northeast to have a team that they can come over, a couple hour drive and get to see some good soccer," Sutton said. "Instead of having to go all the way to Boston, they can come up to Montreal, enjoy the city and enjoy the soccer."
Sutton believes the love affair the fans have with the Impact provides a major boost for the team.
"They've been great. I think the one thing that Montreal does well is support their sport franchises," Sutton said. "You can see obviously with the hockey and how passionate they are. And now it's transforming into the soccer. It's fantastic. It's great to be a part of."Note: The Montreal Impact return home this Saturday to face the Portland Timbers.