Like all of his head coaching counterparts across MLS, Thierry Henry didn't know how his Montreal Impact side would react to the unusual circumstances of the MLS is Back Tournament in their opening Group C game on Thursday night.
It was about as bad as he could've envisioned.
Officially, the Impact only lost 1-0 to the New England Revolution, and if not for Matt Turner's sprawling late save might've even rescued a point through Ballou Tabla's very late effort from distance.
By every other measure, however, the Impact were so far behind the Revs that Henry found it futile to imagine any tactical tweaks would've yielded a better result.
"No shape. You don’t fight, and you don’t win battles and you lose balls," Henry lamented. "There is no need to talk about tactics because there was nothing to do about tactics today. It was about desire that we didn’t have, and it can not happen."
"I’m not questioning the desire of my players, but tonight it wasn’t there. Hopefully it will be there against Toronto."
The Canadian Classique next Wednesday (8 pm ET | TUDN, TSN, TVA Sports) should be enough to help unearth more motivation. If not, watching the game tape should do it.
Montreal were outshot 19-7 overall and 4-2 on target as Bruce Arena's Revs were content to allow the Impact a more than fair share of the ball. When the Revs had it, they were almost always going toward goal, with the combination of Carles Gil and goal scorer Gustavo Bou proving exceptionally hard to contain.
Henry's midfield was so badly outplayed early that he pulled off creative attacker Bojan at halftime and then winger Orji Okwonkwo immediately after Bou's 56th minute goal. The reinforcements fared little better, however, on a night that could not have felt more distant from the first five competitive matches of Montreal's year, in the Concacaf Champions League and first two weeks of the MLS campaign.
"We didn’t know where we were going to be physically, but that’s not an excuse," Henry said. "We do fight. You saw that before the beginning of the season."
Perhaps because of the unusual circumstances, the Frenchman appeared willing to believe the lack of spirit owed only to a fluky evening.
"It’s something that we want to have and did have before the break," he said. "And so hopefully we will come back as quick as possible."