When referee Drew Fischer blew the final whistle, Thierry Henry released a triumphant roar that echoed loudly inside a supporter-less BMO Field (watch video embed below).
His Montreal Impact had not only won a game, but they beat their archrivals Toronto FC and in the process ended TFC's bid at an MLS record. The Impact’s 1-0 win–the deciding goal was scored by Rudy Camacho on a set piece that originated from a passing miscue by TFC's goalkeeper–halted Toronto’s unbeaten run at 18 games dating back to last year, one short of all the all-time MLS record jointly held by Columbus and FC Dallas.
“It’s the attitude. We were brave on the ball and brave off the ball. We said we were going to do that,” Henry said postgame, calling the team’s philosophy on the night "defending going forward."
“The amount of 1-v-1s today was refreshing and the amount of times we stopped [Toronto] from playing was refreshing,” Henry continued. “Obviously, more than a couple of times [Toronto] went through and they found some openings because they’re a good team. They are a good team. You don’t go on a run of 18 games unbeaten just like that. We respect that a lot. But today we wanted to be brave and courageous and that’s what we’ve done, on and off the ball. That’s what I actually liked the most.”
Toronto may have outpossessed Montreal 62%-38% and created more total shots (20-10), but the Impact were spirited and smart throughout, producing the best win of the Henry era thus far. They were also opportunistic on their one goal, and they made the big plays, including six saves by starting Impact goalkeeper Clement Diop.
“I thought that Sam Piette was outstanding. He grew into the game. Manu [Emanuel Maciel] also. At the end Rudy [Camacho] and Luis [Binks] at the back were immense. Zack [Brault-Guillard] had a good game. Also Saphir [Taider]. Everybody. And then Clement [Diop], since the beginning of the season does what Clement does. But everybody I think was on point today," Henry said about his players.
It’s hard to believe that in the last match between these two teams which took place on August 28, the Impact only got three shots off in a 1-0 loss compared to their 10 shots in their 1-0 win in Toronto. But for the trip to BMO Field they made some tactical adjustments that allowed them to spring in behind Toronto more often. Captain Jukka Raitala revealed the tweaks made by the Impact: keeping the ball better, picking the right moments to play the ball forward for a counterattack, and switching sides with the ball when the game called for it.
“There were a couple of things we needed to correct, tactical stuff, getting the right mentality when we needed to play forward and when not. I think that was the key point today,” Raitala said in the postgame press conference. “The whole team had a great spirit today. We were on the front foot from the beginning and it was all about the spirit at the end.
“I think we were the better team today on the field,” Raitala stated. “To keep a clean sheet in a place like this, it feels fantastic.”