Decisions, decisions: Montreal Impact MLS semi v Columbus Crew conflicts with Montreal Canadiens game

Decisions, decisions: Montreal Impact MLS semi v Columbus Crew conflicts with Montreal Canadiens game

MONTREAL — The Montreal Impact may be victims of their own success when it comes to Major League Soccer schedule makers.

The first leg of the Impact’s semifinal series against the Columbus Crew at Saputo Stadium on Sunday night will be up against a Montreal Canadiens home game against the Winnipeg Jets. Both games are to start at 7 p.m. ET.

Impact vice-president Richard Legendre said FOX Sports in the U.S. wanted the Impact and scoring star Didier Drogba on air in prime time.

“It wasn’t our first choice, we were hoping for a 5 p.m. start,” said Legendre. “The TV networks, partners of MLS in the States, really want our game.

“They’ve seen the story happening here and our very special run and they want it in prime time. We understand.”

Where it may hurt the Impact is at the box office. On Friday, they still had 10,000 tickets for sale. Legendre said some fans assume the stadium is sold out when its not.

They were 2,000 short of a sellout for a 3-0 victory over Toronto FC on Thursday night in the knockout round of the playoffs, but the 18,069 who showed up were as loud as any crowd this season.

Coach Mauro Biello said that when Montreal scored “it sounded like an explosion. It’s amazing to play in a stadium like that.”

The first all-Canadian playoff match set a record for MLS on TSN and its French-language cousin RDS with an average audience of 582,000 viewers.

The Impact have been on fire with an 8-2-2 record since Drogba began playing regularly in early September. The former Chelsea star has 12 goals in 12 MLS matches, many of them spectacular.

“Our team is peaking at the right time,” said Legendre.

Bill Beacon, The Canadian Press

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