A 15-hour day spent in airports and aircrafts between El Salvador and New York City is great match preparation, said no one ever.
Yet Montreal looked lively in the best first half they’ve ever played at Red Bull Arena, a venue in which they’d lost all three of their games there before this Saturday night. Dilly Duka scored in his home state, sent through by an impeccable Calum Mallace pass. Montreal deserved their 1-0 lead. They’d stuck to the game plan, Mallace said postgame.
But Thierry Henry was always going to turn this around, wasn’t he? Seven goals and three assists in four games used to be Henry’s record against Montreal.
He now has nine and four. A much improved second half performance led New York to this 4-2 win over the Impact, who struggled to contain their opponents but still created some sharp counters.
“In the second half, I think we lost our way a little bit,” Mallace told MLSsoccer.com by phone. “I’m not sure if it was tired legs, the travel, the three games in eight days, but we lost our way a little bit, and when you do that against a team like Red Bulls, you're going to give up goals, especially away from home.”
Due to the journey on Thursday, head coach Frank Klopas understandably set up an even lighter pregame training session than usual on Friday. Mallace says Montreal were suitably prepared, though.
“You can’t take anything away from New York,” Mallace said. “They're obviously a great side, especially at home with the players they've got. It's going to be a tough game regardless. ... I think we got the preparation we needed, for sure. It was just a lack of executing, especially in the second half.”
Looking at the numbers, this is likely not the result that will define Montreal’s season. They’ve been stuck at the bottom for a while, and there’s now a 14-point gap between them and fifth place in the Eastern Conference.
Future performances against New York will be crucial, though. Both teams are in Group 3 of the CONCACAF Champions League. Should New York get two wins against El Salvador's FAS like Montreal did, it’ll all come down to how the last Group 3 fixture between New York and Montreal on October 22 pans out.
“CONCACAF’s a completely different situation,” Mallace said. “It’s a tournament style, so maybe that brings a little extra to it or something like that. We’ll see, but as I said, we’ll definitely take a look at the film and analyze our performance first. Then, we’ll see what we can do to adjust and hopefully advance in that tournament.”