MONTREAL — With the Montreal Impact set to return to Olympic Stadium for the second leg of their Concacaf Champions League Round of 16 series against Deportivo Saprissa on Wednesday (8 pm ET | FS2 | TSN in Canada), midfielder Samuel Piette admitted that he had butterflies in his stomach at the idea of returning to the iconic venue.
“I’m excited and a little nervous,” Piette said. “Because it’s a very big game that means a lot to us but I’m more excited than anything else.”
The Montreal native relished the opportunity to return to the site of the 1976 Olympics that also served as the Impact’s home base for CCL play. The Impact defeated Liga MX side Santos Laguna in the first leg of the quarterfinals in 2008 as a non-MLS side. In 2015, the Impact went all the way and the club hosted the final against Club América.
“I’m very excited. I only played one game at Olympic Stadium, it was our first home game against Toronto FC,” Piette said. “They are different circumstances but it’s still a soccer game. We got a 2-2 result in Costa Rica [in the first leg] and now we’ll have the advantage of playing at home with the crowd on our side.”
Head coach Thierry Henry understood that the venue, paired with the importance of the CCL game, will make for a special experience for his players.
“For me it always matters but obviously it matters more because you can be out after the second game,” Henry said. “But it’s just normal, you’re home, some of our players maybe haven’t played in a stadium like that. It might be their first game, I don’t know what the starting XI is going to be, we’re playing against a good team. We brought [a result] back at home to be able to see if we can go through.”
Asked about his feelings on his debut game in Montreal, Henry simply answered: “The Impact will play against Saprissa tomorrow, not me.”
The Olympic Stadium’s turf may prove to be Montreal's biggest advantage for Wednesday’s game. The Impact have trained on the synthetic surface since Saturday. Saprissa, on the other hand, have only trained on the surface once. For Henry, the surface shouldn’t be a problem for his players.
“The guys didn’t complain too much about it,” Henry said. “The guys that have been here for a while played on it already. [There was no complaining] that I know of, in all fairness.”
Saprissa's Johan Venegas said that despite being happy to be back in Montreal, the Big O’s pitch “looked a bit damaged.”
Henry further downplayed any perceived advantage his might get from the surface, pointing out that many leagues have stadiums with synthetic turf. However, the Frenchman agreed that the feeling of being at home in a decisive game could help his team.
“There are a lot of players on the other side that are used to playing on turf,” Henry said. “There are players that have played in big noisy stadiums on the other side too. It’s true that it helps when you have to hold a score line and you’re at home. It also helps when you have to get back in a game and you’re at home. After that from what I’ve been through personally, it’s about the same if you’re home or away. But it’s always better to be at home if you need to hold on to a score line.”