The Montreal Impact have a manager that knows a thing or two about the No. 9 position.
Thierry Henry, a legendary forward in his playing days, is now living his professional life on the Impact sidelines, and enjoyed a 2-0 victory over the Vancouver Whitecaps on Tuesday evening in their return to action after the MLS is Back Tournament. But he likes what he sees up top from one of the protagonists of that victory, and a player most had pegged as a wide attacker — 29-year-old Honduran Romell Quioto.
With several natural center forwards to choose from, Henry opted to start Quioto as the lone striker against the Whitecaps, the second time he's done so in 2020. The moved paid off this time around, with Quioto bagging the opening goal in a lively performance. When asked about what he's seen and liked from Quioto in the center forward position, Henry indicated his relentless eye for goal was a factor.
“Romell Quioto can play wherever he wants — on the left, on the right, in the middle, he will give you something,” Henry said in his postgame comments after Tuesday's win. “He works hard in the game, as you saw, and now he’s loving the fact that he’s scoring goals. Once you taste that, when you have that taste in your mouth, you don’t want to lose it.
“He is starting to enjoy scoring goals, but when you look at him, he is a pain in the neck when you play against him. He’s in your face, he’s going put pressure, he’s going to have a go at you in a right way and score goals for us.”
Quioto has indeed been in good form since arriving via trade from the Houston Dynamo in the most recent offseason. In the pandemic-altered season, he has scored three times in five regular-season starts, with two of the goals coming after he started up top. He was and is by no means an ineffective player on the wing, but after a strong 2018 season (six goals and 12 assists in MLS play, plus a U.S. Open Cup title), he struggled for playing time in 2019 before heading to the Impact as both clubs looked to reshape their rosters under new coaches. It turns out the change of scenery — both in the big picture and on the field — may have been just what Quioto needed to get back to his best.
“I don’t know what happened in his old club, stuff like that. I saw him playing so many times on the left, usually coming back and trying to shoot,” Henry said. “But with his power, with his speed, with his tenacity and obviously now he’s adding goals into it — he’s being a guy that nobody expected him to do what he did, especially as a nine, and he’s doing it. So we are really happy with that.”