Thierry Henry is not someone given to making excuses. In fact his unease is palpable when asked to talk about the challenges his team and the other two Canadian clubs in MLS face in this most unusual of soccer seasons.
The travel, every home game is played in New Jersey thanks to Covid restrictions, weighs heavily on his players, who must spend several days on end away from family and home. It’s a hotel existence, lived in a constant bubble.
And if they do get an opportunity to go home, they must self-isolate, when they get there.
The squad has been on the road since leaving for Vancouver on 12 September, 11 days ago, and have played 5 times in the last 15 days. This evening’s opponents, New England Revolution by contrast have had only 3 engagements in the same timespan. Two of those were at home.
Some will say the players are lucky, they’re footballers being well-remunerated for doing something they love, which of course is true. As always, the truth lies somewhere in between.
What is beyond doubt however is that Montreal Impact have had a tougher, more demanding last 2 weeks than any other club in the league. The schedule has been crazy, only one game at home, and no prospect of returning to host a game there, in the foreseeable future.
Perhaps that’s why the Montreal men looked so flat this evening. Another factor was undoubtedly the unavailability of Quioto (suspended) and Taider, the latest Montreal player to succumb to injury.
But they did compete well for the first 45 minutes even if their defending at set-pieces owed more to good fortune than effective organization. But a goal did look likely as the half wore on and Revs’ centre-back Henry Kessel was in the right place as added time extended to the 47th minute.
Heads visibly dropped in the Impact camp, but not as much as they did within 4 minutes of the restart. Gustavo Bou was able to elude Wanyama too easily and shot low into the corner of Diop’s net from 20 yards.
Diego Fagundez, a second-half substitute, slid the ball past Diop for number three in the 65th minute. The Revs had now slipped more goals past the Impact in just over an hour than they’d managed at home all season (5 matches).
Lassi Lappalainen, a first-half substitute for Orji Okwonkwo, who joined Montreal’s lengthening injury list, pulled a consolation goal back in the 86th, but it was all much too little, much too late.
Montreal had a couple of long range efforts (Okwonkwo and Bojan) in the first half, competently dealt with by Turner in the Revs’ goal. In retaliation Kelyn Rowe was unequalled when it came to aerial activity in the Impact area.
Young Karifa Yao, making his first start in MLS really should have reduced the arrears on 51 minutes, but couldn’t direct his close range header between the posts.
The remainder of the second-half was comfortable for the Revs, until Lappalainen reminded them he was there, running onto Maciel’s through ball to finish with aplomb past Turner.
It was a trademark Lappalainen goal, an almost carbon copy of all his best moments in an Impact shirt.
Thierry Henry conceded his team was not at their best. “From the bench, you could feel it. There was a certain passivity that you don’t usually get. We didn’t play like we usually play, or rush like we usually do. “
There is no respite for the Impact, who fell to 8th position in the Eastern Conference. They now return to their New Jersey base in anticipation of their next test on Sunday evening, at New York Red Bulls.
That won’t be easy against their temporary landlords, who won 4-1 away to Inter Miami this evening, and moved a point beyond Montreal in the standings.
NERevs - Turner - Bye, Farrell, Kessler, Buttner (Jones, 30) - Scott Caldwell, Rowe (Polster, 63) - Buchanan, Nguyen (Fagundez, 63), Bunbury (Penilla, 69) - Bou (Buksa, 69)
IMFC - Diop - Brault-Guillard, Yao, Binks, Raitala, Corrales (Urruti, 64) - Piette, Wanyama, Maciel - Okwonkwo (Lappalainen, 27), Bojan (Sejdic, 79)
Match Officials -
- Referee: Fotis Bazakos (IMFC record in games reffed by Mr Bazakos - 4-4-2)
- Assistant Referees: Ian McKay, Gjovalin Bori
- 4th Official: Ted Unkel
- VAR: Kevin Terry Jr.