Thierry Henry manages a side against his old club at Red Bull Arena for the first time, hoping to arrest a three game losing slide in which his team has conceded 10 goals.
Henry scored 51 goals in 122 MLS games for the Red Bulls and played a notable role in this evening’s fixture as a player. Not only did he become the first-ever player to score an MLS hat-trick against Montreal Impact in a 5-2 win in March 2012, but he’s the top scorer in the fixture with 9 goals.
The good news is the Impact will not face a striker of Henry’s calibre this evening, but given recent events surrounding a weary squad, a tough evening is guaranteed.
It will be the Montreal side’s sixth match in just nineteen days. The Red Bulls in contrast will be on their fourth outing over the same period.
Henry has cut a frustrated figure in recent days, watching his side throw games away cheaply, dealing with a hectic fixture schedule not helped by injury and suspension to key players and generally managing a squad that’s been on the road for over two weeks.
“I just need to try to make sure to put the best team out there in terms of the injuries that we have [and] guys that are heavy-legged. We played three games last week and this is the second week that we are doing that. Not easy.
“And like I said before, we are away from home. Not to look for excuses but that is the conditions we are in right now.
“I thought mentally and physically the guys were a bit tired the other day against New England. We didn’t have so much control of the ball against New England. It was a bit different how we lost to them than against Vancouver and Philadelphia. But [we’re] just trying to take one day at a time.”
Red Bulls are coming off their most convincing win of the season, 4-1 at Inter-Miami, but have been struggling at Red Bull Arena, where they have not scored now for 301 minutes, since Kyle Duncan scored the only goal in the derby win over NYCFC. They themselves are hoping to arrest a three game losing run... at home!
It should be a tight game; no-one available to either coach this evening has been what you would call prolific. Austrian Daniel Royer has three goals for the Red Bulls this season, and should Saphir Taider (4 goals) not make it for Montreal, Lassi Lappalainen is their top marksman on 2.
The Impact is sweating on Taider’s availability, as teaming up with Bojan, likely the furthest player forward in the absence of Quioto (still suspended), could be key if they are to unlock the Red Bulls. The Algerian did some light training on Friday. He’s not ruled out completely, but must be considered highly doubtful.
Orji Okwonkwo has joined the injury list having lasted just over 20 minutes at Gillette Stadium before hamstring troubles hit. His replacement and goalscorer that evening, Lassi Lappalainen, should continue, lining up against the Red Bulls from the start.
Henry also has a decision to make in defence. Does he extend the three at the back option deployed in New England or revert to a flat back four? The smart money is on the latter, so Karifa Yao may be retained to partner Luis Binks centrally. If not, the Englishman’s likely side-kick could be the much maligned Rudy Camacho.
Maxi Urruti and Rod Fanni should again take up spots on the bench despite doubts remaining over each man’s fitness.
For the Red Bulls, Ryan Meara (hip), Sean Davis (knee), Mark Rzatkowski (hip) and Patrick Seagrist (groin) all remain on the casualty list. Dane Brian Jensen who returned to the side for the midweek success in Florida, is expected to continue in goal for Meara.
The Impact reversed a chronic trend on their last visit to play New York Red Bulls in New Jersey. They had lost the first nine MLS meetings at the venue before goals from Diallo and Urruti put a halt to the run in a 2-1 win. That was May last year.
A similar result this evening will see the men from Montreal leapfrog their temporary landlords in the Eastern Conference standings. Anything else and they will be back on that borderline between play-off qualification and not.
A welcome six-day break follows this one for the Impact, Bleu/Blanc/Noir fans will be hoping their favourites sign off this latest expedition positively, setting up a decent tilt at post-season soccer for the run in.
Projected Line-ups -
NYRB - Jensen - Egbo, Parker, Long, Pendant - Yearwood, Kaku - Stroud, Royer - White, Jorgensen
IMFC - Diop - Brault-Guillard, Yao, Binks, Raitala - Wanyama, Maciel - Piette, Taider, Lappalainen - Bojan
- Referee: Rosendo Mendoza
- Assistant Referees: Claudiu Badea, Kyle Atkins
- 4th Official: Elvis Osmanovic
- VAR: David Gantar