MONTREAL – When the Montreal Impact twice took a deserved lead at Red Bull Arena back in March, they didn't think that it would all slip away in a resounding turn of events.
With a 2-1 advantage at the end of the first half, center back Matteo Ferrari clumsily conceded a penalty which Kenny Cooper duly converted. The second half belonged to New York, with Thierry Henry scoring twice to complete his hat trick on each side of a Mehdi Ballouchy goal for a 5-2 triumph.
LAST MATCH, MARCH 31, 2012: NY 5, MTL 2
But players and coach alike insist that they were a young team then, and that they have learned vital lessons ahead of this Saturday’s rematch against the New York Red Bulls at the Olympic Stadium (7:30 pm ET, MLS LIVE).
“I think we've learned a little more about managing games and different situations in games,” team captain Davy Arnaud (above) told the press on Friday. “Maybe dealing with adversity, because the first time in New York … we came out in the second half and our character wasn't good enough. We gave up the early goal, felt sorry for ourselves a little bit and got punished.”
Generally, second halves have not been kind on an Impact team who have conceded 11 goals of 16 in the last 45 minutes of games. The second stanza against the Red Bulls was a decidedly low point in the young coaching career of Jesse Marsch, who had to take a deep breath before answering some of the media’s questions.
The Eastern Conference-leading Red Bulls will step on the Olympic Stadium turf with confidence – even without Henry and Rafa Márquez – having won their last four MLS outings.
While the Impact know this in-form New York team is tough to beat, they also feel that they can put that dreadful second half behind them in what should be their last match in the Olympic Stadium this season – Saputo should be ready to host their June 16 clash with Seattle.
“I think it’s a game where our team understands [New York] a bit and now has some confidence,” Marsch said. "It’s time to show that we've grown and that, at home, it's going to be a different kind of game.”