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Thierry Henry As Montreal Impact Manager Is Going To Be Fun

If his first official match in charge is anything to go by, this will be a fascinating experiment.

Thierry Henry, one of the greatest strikers of his generation, isn’t much of a proven manager. Though he played for the likes of Arsene Wenger, Pep Guardiola and Carlo Ancelotti, his first stint as Monaco coach was about as bad as it gets. The former World Cup and Champions League winner clearly wasn’t ready to lead one of Europe’s top clubs.

Major League Soccer, on the other hand, might be the perfect place for the 42-year-old coach.

If his debut as Montreal Impact coach is anything to go by, Henry is going to be fun to watch in MLS.

Henry’s Impact drew 2-2 with Costa Rican side Saprissa in the Concacaf Champions League on Wednesday night in San José, Costa Rica, in the first official match of the Frenchman’s second head coaching gig. It was one of those fantastic barn burners that only Concacaf can supply and hopefully the start of an intriguing season for Montreal and Henry, regardless of whether they’re successful.

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Since retiring in 2014, Henry has turned his attention to coaching. While he helped Belgium finish third at the World Cup as an assistant, his first stint as a head coach at Monaco was disastrous in 2018. The club won four matches out of 20 with a minus-21 goal difference and he was canned in January 2019 with the team in the relegation zone. 

Henry was given a second chance by the Impact, who have never really made an impact in MLS and finished 18th overall last year. But Montreal is a three-time winner of the Canadian Championship, which qualified the Impact for the Concacaf Champions League. Five years ago, the club nearly won the tournament, losing to Club América in the final. That year, the Impact beat Henry’s Red Bulls in the CCL group stage, the only prior experience Henry has had with the CCL.  

Things hadn’t started well for Henry heading into his first official match in charge. Montreal won one preseason match, but lost the last four, having scored just one goal in that span as the club’s all-time leading scorer Ignacio Piatti left the team on Feb. 10. The Impact were facing one of the most experienced CCL sides in the region; only one side in this year’s competition (Honduras’ Olimpia, 11) has appeared in more Concacaf Champions Leagues than Saprissa.

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And yet Montreal came out and scored two goals in the opening 22 minutes. 

Orji Okwonkwo netted the opener after a gift from the Saprissa defense 12 minutes in. (The 22-year-old was one of two Montreal players who had to be subbed out with injuries in the first half, which may have factored into the club’s waning influence on the match in the second half.) 

Romell Quioto, acquired from the Houston Dynamo in the offseason, made it 2-0 10 minutes later. While his coach was known for delicately placed shots in the corner, Quioto went a different route and smashed a shot straight at the opposing keeper, who was happy to not have his head taken off.

Clément Diop was the Montreal’s hero for the rest of the match. 

The Senegalese keeper came up with a couple stupendous saves, the first to deny an olimpico

Then he did whatever this is to deny Saprissa in the second half. 

Maximiliano Urruti thought he had given Montreal a 3-0 lead in the 57th minute, but the goal was called back for a pick on Saprissa center back David Guzmán. 

Saprissa then found a way back into the match and forced Henry to wait for his first win as Montreal manager.

First, former Impact forward Johan Venegas rose up to head home past his former team in the 80th minute.

Then Ariel Rodriguez poked a late equalizer past Diop.

Full-Match Saprissa vs Montreal Highlights

After the match, Henry, speaking beautiful Spanish, said he was happy with his side’s performance after a tough preseason, sentiments echoed by former Barcelona player Bojan Krkic, who played the full 90 as a false 9. 

With the return leg at home and two away goals in the bag, Henry will feel like he’s got a chance to advance to the quarterfinals, where the winner faces either Olimpia or Seattle Sounders. 

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