D.C. United's newest super-sub believes the key to defeating the Montreal Impact in both teams' Group C finale on Tuesday night (10:30 pm ET | ESPN, TUDN in the US: TSN, TVA Sports in Canada) is to focus on themselves.
The club's longest-tenured manager is a little more pragmatic.
While playmaker Federico Higuain says its hard to know exactly how the Impact will play in just their eighth match in all competitions under manager Thierry Henry, D.C. coach Ben Olsen has seen enough tactical variety from the former Arsenal, Barcelona and New York Red Bulls great to expect a strategic challenge.
"Thierry is a very sharp guy," Olsen said. "And I think he is in the process of figuring out ... who we are and who they are and how they’re going to go about winning games. They’ve had a few tweaks tactically over the last two games and even going back into the early parts of the season. They’re a tricky team to prep for in that you’re not exactly sure how they’re going to go about the game."
"(Maxi) Urruti is relentless. (Romell) Quioto has added a nice element to their team. (Samuel) Piette is super experienced," Olsen said. "And so it’s going to be a very difficult match. I thought they were the better team against Toronto. I thought Toronto was very efficient. And I thought they caused Toronto a lot of fits, especially down in the width with their wingbacks, causing a bunch of trouble, getting in isolations. ... It will be a tactical challenge for us."
Olsen said striker Ola Kamara (quadriceps strain) will be available if he can pass a fitness test on Monday, and that winger Emmanuel Boateng remains out injured but could return in the Round of 16 should D.C. advance.
As for Higuain, who has scored two of D.C.'s goals in just 31 minutes — his first two for D.C. and his first ever in MLS as a substitute — the Argentine says he's not even sure exactly what his fitness level is at the moment, in terms of possibly playing a longer shift.
After the 35-year-old's return from an ACL tear in May 2019 that ended his long tenure at Columbus Crew SC, his new teammates will take what they can get.
"I think Pipa is one of the greatest No. 10s this league ever had," said Felipe, who provided the through ball on Higuain's goal against Toronto in D.C.'s first tournament match. "We are lucky to have him, and his influence has been very positive since Day 1. His energy and his willingness to give the best for this club, it’s unbelievable."