Fresh from a trip home to Canada, the Montreal Impact were hopeful they could come away with an important result at Yankee Stadium in Week 20, especially as the match against New York City FC remained scoreless midway through the second half.
Then the floodgates opened for NYCFC in the 68th minute and the Impact's ship was sunk in a 3-1 loss. After the match, Impact head coach Thierry Henry called himself "the captain of the ship" and he made it clear he was going down with it.
“It was my fault. Maybe we should have stayed [in New York] and trained,” Henry said in reference to the travel back to Montreal earlier in the week. “I wanted to have faith in my guys and think about the mental aspect. But it’s my fault, no problem.”
Because of COVID-19 restrictions, the Impact has made its training base on U.S. soil in New Jersey in recent weeks. After last week's 2-1 win against Inter Miami CF, Henry’s squad flew to Montreal in order to allow the player to see their families. However, the squad was not permitted to train as a team while north of the border.
If the trip negatively impacted their play, it didn't show up until the 68th minute when an individual error from defender Rudy Camacho inside the box gave a golden opportunity for Jesus Medina to open the scoring. Two other goals quickly followed thanks to Maxi Moralez and Tony Rocha.
“We made, again, a clear mistake that changed the rhythm of the game and changed everything,” Henry said. “But I take the blame. For everything that’s been happening, I take the blame. Those guys are dealing with something that’s very difficult and I take the blame. It’s as simple as that.”
Highlights: NYCFC 3, Montreal 1
Henry was also not about to make any excuses about the tighter pitch dimensions at Yankee Stadium.
“It was a game in which we were in control and in which we needed to score much earlier,” Henry said. “And once again, we put ourselves in trouble.”
Nevertheless, Henry made sure to express his pride for his team and lauded his players for “doing extremely well despite the circumstances." But the Frenchman did reiterate that the turning point of the game was a mistake that could have been avoided.
“We could have been ahead in this game, let’s be honest, before [the first goal] easily,” Henry said. “We disturbed them easily. They couldn’t play through us apart from maybe two plays in the first half. But then, obviously, when you do this type of thing, you punish yourself.”
The Impact also didn't get much help from their attackers. Romell Quioto, who scored Montreal's consolation goal, missed a good opportunity earlier in the match, as did Maximiliano Urruti. And Bojan Krkic was caught offside on another play.
And in a rare sequence, Canadian international attacker Ballou Tabla was called upon as a 73rd-minute substitute only to be subbed off himself 14 minutes later. Asked if he had pulled Tabla out of the game due to the adductor issue the player has been battling this season, Henry said “it was not an aggravation" of the injury.
Despite the setback, the Impact are still very much in the thick of the Audi 2020 MLS Cup Playoff race. Henry said his squad was already eyeing Tuesday’s clash with direct playoff opponents Nashville SC. Montreal are right below the expansion side in ninth place in the Eastern Conference with only two points separating both clubs.
“It’s not the first time that this happens to us, but what’s nice with football is that there is always another game to respond,” Henry said. “We have a game on Tuesday against a team that’s really hard to handle. A solid team that’s really aggressive, so it will be up to us to manage all of that, it won’t be easy, but sometimes it’s better to play right away in order to move on to better things.”