Sounders, Impact tangle at CenturyLink

The Seattle Sounders will be looking for their second consecutive season-opening victory when the club hosts the Montreal Impact at CenturyLink Field on Saturday.

The Sounders began 2012 with a comfortable 3-1 win over Toronto FC and will be aiming for the same type of start to the 2013 campaign in the Pacific Northwest.

The Sounders also hope Saturday is a springboard to another successful season to follow up a 2012 term which saw the club earn its first postseason victory.

Seattle Sounders FC took a major step forward last season by knocking off Real Salt Lake in the MLS Cup semifinals before falling to the eventual champion Los Angeles Galaxy in the next round.

The Sounders will have to try to achieve a deeper postseason run this time out without one of their most dynamic players.

Star forward Fredy Montero was sent on a season-long loan to Colombian side Millonarios in January, leaving the Rave Green with serious questions about where the offensive production will come from in 2013.

Montero, 25, came to the Sounders ahead of their inaugural season in 2009 from Colombia's Deportivo Cali and was one of the club's most recognizable faces during his time in the Pacific Northwest.

He is the club's all-time leading goal scorer with 47 tallies in MLS competition, which is good for the third most in MLS since the 2009 season.

Additionally, he contributed 60 goals and 43 assists in all competitions and was adept at finding clutch goals for his club, scoring 23 match-winning goals in all competitions.

"Fredy has been a fantastic player and pro for Sounders FC over our first four years," owner/general manager Adrian Hanauer said. "We wish Fredy the best of success with Millonarios as he continues to develop as a player. We hope this move helps Fredy's chances of being called up to the Colombian national team, as he has certainly earned it."

With Montero gone, forwards Eddie Johnson and David Estrada will have to shoulder the scoring load this season.

Johnson had a stellar 2012 season in which he scored a franchise-record 14 goals -- many in spectacular fashion, while Estrada had a bit of a breakout year last term, appearing in 17 games, with 12 starts, and scoring five goals. He also netted a hat trick against Toronto FC.

It's a new era for the second-year Montreal Impact under new head coach Marco Schallibaum.

The Impact won 12 matches last term, but missed the playoffs, finishing seventh in the Eastern Conference. Despite the relatively positive season, philosophical differences between then-head coach Jessie Marsch and club president Joey Saputo caused a rift and Marsch was shown the door.

Prior to coming to North America, Schallibaum coached in the Swiss Super League for 10 years, leading FC Basel, BSC Young Boys, Servette, Sion, Schaffhausen and Bellinzona.

Most recently, Schallibaum led Lugano in 2010-2011 in the Swiss second division. His club won an impressive 19 games that season.

Italian forward Marco Di Vaio will lead the attack in 2013. The 35-year-old striker became the Impact's first Designated Player on May 24, 2012 after signing from Italian side Bologna.

In addition to Di Vaio, second-year player Andrew Wenger should get his share of minutes on Saturday and will need to consistently produce in order for the Impact to have a successful season.

Patrice Bernier and newcomer Andrea Pisanu will be the stars in the midfield for the Impact this weekend.

Pisanu arrived in Montreal on January 4 on loan from Bologna. He scored six goals in 75 games in Serie A, including 71 with Parma between 2004 and 2012. He has also played for Cagliari and Chievo in Italy's top flight.

Defensively, veteran Alessandro Nesta will anchor the backline, beginning what may be the 37-year-old's final professional season.

"Maybe this is my last season, and I want to do very good," Nesta said during the team's preseason training in Florida. "I want to win with this club, with these guys. And I think we can."

Saturday's inter-conference clash between the sides should show us a little bit about how Seattle head coach Sigi Schmid plans to fill Montero's void up top, while Schallibaum will have a stern test on his hands in his first game in charge.