The Montreal Impact are expecting new coach Thierry Henry’s vast experience on the international stage translates into CONCACAF Champions League success.
The Impact play their first CONCACAF Champions League match since losing the 2015 final when they take on Costa Rican side Deportivo Saprissa in the first leg of the round of 16 on Wednesday. The return leg is Feb. 26 in Montreal.
Players believe Henry’s own UEFA Champions League experience as a player — with Monaco, Arsenal and Barcelona — can help prepare them for a hostile environment like Costa Rica’s Estadio Ricardo Saprissa Ayma.
“He can prepare us for that Champions League atmosphere,” said veteran defender Rod Fanni. “That’s reassuring for us — that whatever situation presents itself, here’s someone who knows how to react. You always want people like that on your side.
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“A new coach brings with him new tactics, a different soccer culture, and a lot of experience.”
Montreal Impact considered umderdogs
Despite Henry’s arrival in the off-season, the Impact remains considerable underdogs versus Costa Rican giants Deportivo Saprissa, three-time winners of this competition (when it was known as the Champions’ Cup) in 1993, 1995 and 2005.
The Canadian side took a major hit on offence last week when Ignacio Piatti joined Argentina’s San Lorenzo after six seasons with Montreal. Piatti wanted to return home and requested to have his contract terminated.
The 35-year-old was the club’s leading goal scorer in all competitions. His departure creates an opportunity for attacking players like Maximiliano Urruti, Anthony Jackson-Hamel and Bojan to fill the void in the Argentine’s absence.
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The Impact are determined to keep a clean sheet in the first leg of the aggregate series. Going down early could prove costly in Henry’s coaching debut with Montreal, especially in a belligerent 23,000-seat stadium far from home.