It’s been a good week for Thierry Henry and Montreal Impact. Two short-term objectives achieved. Progress in the Champions League followed by victory in the club’s first-ever MLS Opening-Day at home.
It was positive for Argentinian striker Maxi Urruti too. It took the former Dallas man 12 matches to strike his first MLS goal in 2019. In 2020 he’s up and running on day one!
The unpopular Stade Olimpique turf however did come in for criticism, Revs coach Bruce Arena stating, “No-one can adjust to that surface. That surface shouldn’t be allowed in the league in all honesty.”
The former US team-boss however acknowledged his team had been, “... outplayed by Montreal on the day.”
New England went into the game without Carles Gil, Luis Caicedo, Antonio Delamea, and Seth Sinovic, Impact were missing Raitala, Okwonkwo and Camacho.
With Montreal just having come off a tough double-header with Saprissa, both sides probably felt they were meeting each other at a good time. This would have been reinforced for the New England men when Teal Bunbury shot them in front on 13 mins. The Impact defence stood off the Revs’ Canadian-born striker and he volleyed past Diop’s despairing dive.
Rocked back on their heels the Impact played their way back into the game, and were rewarded in the 37th minute. Quioto losing his marker DeJuan Jones, headed in a Montreal MLS debut goal at the back post, but much was down to the curved run of another debutant, Joel Waterman who had stolen a stride on the Revs’ defence to flick on Urruti’s corner.
As the game entered its final quarter, New England thought they had regained the lead through substitute Wilfried Zahibo on 73 mins, but VAR correctly confirmed the big midfielder was marginally offside. Boss Bruce Arena was left stood shaking his head on the sidelines.
With ten mins left to play, Fanni moved out of defence, ball at his feet, and fed Taider. The Algerian sent a bouncing ball through to Urruti, who first-timed an accurate lob over Turner, the Revs’ stranded goalkeeper, who could only stare as the ball dropped inside the upright.
Montreal had one more major scare with four minutes left on the clock. Buchanan, Revs’ 81st min substitute, met Brandon Bye’s perfectly placed cross but could only find the far post, when the play had ‘goal’ written all over it.
A team evolves throughout a season and things will change, but there seems little doubt Thierry Henry and his coaching staff have settled for the time-being on a 5-2-3 without the ball and a 3-4-3 when in possession.
”It’s not all rosy, but it’s starting to look like something. There was a lot more today,“ said Henry. And going back with a reference to the ‘76 Montreal Olympics, the coach joked, ”The only person I know who has reached perfection is Nadia Comaneci.”
Clearly the former World Cup winner feels he’s making progress in Montreal, although he'd surely caution against anyone becoming blasé or getting carried away after the Impact’s three-game unbeaten start.
No-one after all will be surprised should things come crashing down next weekend in Texas. The Lone Star State has been an Impact graveyard, with 12 defeats in 13 previous visits, a 1-1 draw in Houston in 2012, the only time Montreal has avoided defeat in the territory.
Should some more Henry magic conjure a result from Dallas, then Impact fans will dare to dream. Keeping feet on the ground will be a tad more difficult. Not a bad problem to contend with.
IMFC: Clément Diop; Joel Waterman, Luis Binks, Rod Fanni; Jorge Corrales, Saphir Taïder, Samuel Piette, Zachary Brault-Guillard (Amar Sejdic 90’+2’); Romell Quioto, Bojan (Lassi Lappalainen 77’); Maxi Urruti (Shamit Shome 87’)
Substitutes Not Used: Evan Bush, Karifa Yao, Orji Okwonkwo, Anthony Jackson-Hamel
NE Revs: Matt Turner; DeJuan Jones (Tajon Buchanan 82’), Andrew Farrell, Henry Kessler, Brandon Bye; Scott Caldwell (Wilfried Zahibo HT), Diego Fagundez; Teal Bunbury (Michael Mancienne 66’), Gustavo Bou, Cristian Penilla; Adam Buksa
Substitutes Not Used: Brad Knighton, Kelyn Rowe, Damian Rivera, Justin Rennicks
Referee: Chris Penso
Assistant Refs: Nick Uranga, Jeremy Hanson
Fourth Official: Pierre-Luc Lauziere
Video Assistant Referee: Malik Badawi
Assistant Video Referee: Robert Schaap