While Thierry Henry was in the midst of molding the Montreal Impact to his vision in his first few months as head coach, the Major League Soccer season was suspended due to COVID-19. Global pandemics care not for planning.
The squad was a work in progress, both by way of availability and instilling what Henry wanted from his new team. Victor Wanyama was a late addition and is still awaiting his MLS debut. Lassi Lappalainen played just 13 minutes and Bojan only appeared in one of the club's first two MLS games.
With the squad in flux, Henry scrapped how the team were playing in preseason and changed the formation to compensate. He wanted to lay the basic groundwork first before getting into tactical nuance: This team needs to fight.
Now, after a four-month break, the Impact are set to take the field again in the MLS is Back Tournament in Orlando.
“It’s kind of like everything is new again," Henry told reporters on a video conference call. "We’ve been working on tactics and getting them ready, but games give you the truth. I keep saying to the team: We’ve got to fight. Regardless of anything, we have to fight and play hard.”
Henry can't quite equate this break in play to the preseason, either, as the club were unable to schedule any friendlies. He noted that the winter's friendly schedule allowed his team to play through mistakes and gave him the chance to switch from a back four to a back five.
With five at the back, the Impact advanced to the quarterfinals of the Concacaf Champions League and picked up four points from those first two MLS matches.
“Tactically, we’re going to be ready to do what we need to do," Henry said. "Whether it’s going to work or not, we’ll know what we need to do, but we have to fight. That’s the most important thing."
Henry's first win as a manager in the league came against the New England Revolution, who happen to be their opponents Thursday to kick off their slate at the MLS is Back Tournament (8 pm ET | TUDN in US; TSN, TVAS in Canada).
"Beating the same team twice in a row is never easy," Henry said. "But we will try to do it. As I said when we faced them for the first time, Bruce Arena is an experienced coach, players like [Gustavo] Bou and [Carles] Gil can make the difference at any time, they also have experienced players. We were able to surprise them thanks to what we did, I don’t know if we will be able to surprise them again."