The Montreal Impact could not have found a better way to show to show off their rebuilt home stadium to their fans.
The goals poured in and the crowd at the revamped and expanded Saputo Stadium, even if it wasn’t a sell-out, cheered and sang at maximum decibels through a 4-1 MLS victory over the Seattle Sounders on Saturday night.
“We feel we’re at home now,” Impact captain Davy Arnaud said. “It was a fun game for everyone.”
Felipe Martins, Justin Mapp, Andrew Wenger and former Sounder Lamar Neagle scored while local favourite Patrice Bernier of Brossard, Que., assisted on three Impact goals before an announced crowd of 17,112. Montreal (4-7-3) ended a two-game losing run.
Eddie Johnson scored for the Seattle (7-4-3), which was reduced to 10 men in the 57th minute when Jhon Kennedy Hurtado was sent off for a nasty tackle on Collen Warner. Seattle is winless in its last five (0-3-2).
The expansion Impact played their first five home games indoors at Olympic Stadium next door while Saputo Stadium, built with 13,034 seats in 2008, was expanded to what will be 20,341 when a small section of about 900 seats in the east end is completed later this year.
The renovated building looked sharp with its blue seats against a white background, with a lush grass pitch and an overhang at the top of the stands that kept in the noise and made for a loud, energetic environment, especially as the Impact scored a season-high four goals.
“The sound was great,” said Neagle, who was acquired from Seattle in a pre-season trade. “We were talking about it on the bench. I like how close it is. It feels more like Europe.”
The Impact got an early lead when Martins took a pass from Bernier at the edge of the penalty area and curled a ball through traffic inside the far post only 18 minutes in.
But what felt like a party for the home side was a nightmare for the visitors, who played the final 35 minutes down a man after defender Jhon Kennedy Hurtado was sent off for a hard tackle on Collen Warner.
“To be frank, it’s embarrassing to lose like that,” said Seattle defender Zach Scott. “I mean, to be down a man and then start to play? That can’t happen.
“We’ve got to go home and figure it out. They were just better than us tonight, period. It felt like they were playing with a couple of guys more than us, besides us getting a man sent off. We didn’t close down space. We didn’t do what we were supposed to do.”
Seattle had some pressure after the 30th minute when Montreal centre back Matteo Ferrari limped off with a right thigh problem after going up for a ball with goalkeeper Bryan Meredith.
Johnson headed a cross over the net and had a good chance off a corner, while Brad Evans fired a shot from near the penalty spot that Donovan Ricketts gathered in.
But Montreal put the game away after the half.
Only six minutes in, Mapp took a long pass on the left side from Bernier and cut most of the way across the front of the penalty area before firing a low shot against the flow inside the left post.
Only seven minutes later, Bernier picked off a Seattle clearing attempt and slipped a pass to Wenger to score from the right side. Bernier got an ovation when he was substituted by Bernardo Corradi with 15 minutes left to play.
The Sounders got one back when Fredy Montero sent Johnson in alone to chip a ball over Ricketts in the 62nd minute.
Neagle replaced Mapp in the 62nd minute and did some tenacious work to get through the defence inside the area and score his first of the year.
“We played well,” said Bernier. “In terms of efficiency, we created chances and scored.
“And at home with the great crowd we had, it’s a great opening. We showed the fans we can score and that when we play to our qualities, we can be a very dangerous team.”
The Impact went 2-1-2 at the Big O, twice drawing crowds of more than 58,000, but the echoing sound in the cavernous dome made for a stuffier atmosphere than the smaller, outdoor facility — particularly on a warm spring night.
“It was awesome,” said the rookie Wenger.
The Impact travel to California to take on Chivas USA on Wednesday and return home Saturday to face the Houston Dynamo.
The Sounders return home to play Kansas City on Wednesday.
Notes: MLS commissioner Don Garber called the revamped stadium “spectacular,” and wasn’t put off at the non-sellout. “We knew it would be a soft opening. The stadium’s not complete. We know the fan base it here. Look at the opening and the L.A. game (average 60,000 at the Big O).” . . New designated player Marco Di Vaio, who can’t play until June 27 against Toronto, watched in a box with Garber and Impact president Joey Saputo.