MONTREAL — Dealing with injuries and a lack of fitness, head coach Thierry Henry and his Montreal Impact squad managed to advance to the Concacaf Champions League quarterfinals on Wednesday night.
The Impact held a 0-0 draw against Deportivo Saprissa at Olympic Stadium and knocked out their Costa Rican opponents on away goals after drawing 2-2 in Costa Rica in the first leg. Henry said that it was a tough game for his squad, that only had 90 minutes of soccer in their legs, but that “you have to fight with your weapons.”
“You have to play a certain way, that’s the way it is and you have to respect that. With the minutes that we had in our legs, again no excuses it is a fact,” Henry said. “Style will come later. Obviously I want to do more when we’re on the ball but it was difficult to have the ball in a system like that and you gotta respect that.”
“It’s different because we knew coming into this game that we only needed to get a result,” said midfielder Samuel Piette. “The first thing I said coming back in the locker room was: ‘I think it’s the first time I see a home team sounding happy with a 0-0 draw.”
Henry said that he wasn’t expecting to defend for most of the game. Instead, he said that “you adapt to what the opposition gives you.”
“It wasn’t a defensive game, they had the ball a lot but if you watched the game well they passed the ball a lot in the midfield or in the back,” Henry said. “That’s not a problem. At the end they started to cross really early but we were able to deal with that. [...] We knew that it would be difficult but we did what we had to do over there.”
Piette, who said before the game that he wasn’t expecting to defend for 90 minutes, that it “wasn’t the approach that they wanted.” The Montreal native echoed his head coach by saying that adapting to Saprissa was most important.
“Yes we were defensive in the sense that we didn’t have the same amount of possession as them,” said Piette. “But at the same time we gave our all. In the first half, apart from a counterattack, they didn’t really create anything.”
“In the end, it’s about doing what you have to do in order to get the result.”
Heading into the Impact’s MLS opener on Saturday against the New England Revolution (3 pm ET | TVAS in Canada, MLS LIVE on ESPN+ in US), Henry takes from his CCL experience that he has “a team that fights” on his hands. The Frenchman mentioned how Romell Quioto and Shamit Shome played until the final whistle and both cramped up after the fact.
“Finishing a game like this and to see my team fight like this in both the first and second legs, I don’t have anything to say,” Henry said. “There are things that we will need to correct, obviously, but in terms of combativeness, there’s nothing to say.”