MTLvsPHI - July 09 - Henry vs Arena

Thierry Henry vs. Bruce Arena: Soccer legends meet Thursday night at MLS is Back Tournament

The English language doesn't quite have the right words to describe just how vastly different the playing careers of Thierry Henry and Bruce Arena went. 

One spent two years at community college playing both soccer and lacrosse before heading to Cornell University, intent on continuing only his lacrosse career. But injuries to multiple goalkeepers led the men's soccer coach looking to the lacrosse team for a fill-in and he continued playing on. That career culminated with one singular national team cap. The other... well, the other is Thierry Henry. You know who he is and how that career went. 

Their coaching careers haven't been similar, either. Advantage Bruce.

The legendary American boss is one of the most distinguished soccer coaches in the history of the sport on this continent. The achievements speak for themselves and it's the kind of coaching resume that Henry is hoping to build.

His first foray into club management didn't go as planned — let go from AS Monaco after a few months in charge before being hired by the Montreal Impact this winter. Henry made his MLS coaching debut opposite Arena and his New England Revolution on February 29. It was four months ago but feels like four years ago.

Round one went to Henry, as the Impact engineered a 2-1 comeback victory. The bell dings for round two tonight (8 pm ET | TUDN in US; TSN, TVAS in Canada) in Group C of the MLS is Back Tournament. 

"I don’t know if we will be able to surprise them again," Henry told reporters on a video conference call this week. He surprisingly doubled down on a five-defender formation after playing all preseason friendlies with four defenders. 

Arena concurs. 

“I think we can throw that game out the window, this game is going to be entirely different," he said. "... We know their lineup from our past game, they know us. I don’t think there’s going to be any secrets."

There may not be many secrets, but there'll be more than a few differences.

Obviously the venue is vastly different. July in Orlando is quite possibly the inverse of February in Montreal, though both propose their own issues. Instead of the snowstorm and the Revs endured to start the season, both teams will contend with the heat and humidity at a neutral venue with no fans. All this after a four-month break between competitive matches, of course. 

The pieces Henry and Arena can call on have changed slightly. Arena didn't have 2019 MLS Newcomer of the Year Carles Gil through injury, while Henry didn't have new Designated Player Victor Wanyama. Alex Buttner has yet to debut for the Revs while Lassi Lappalainen and Bojan each played just once for the Impact to start the MLS season.

“As I said when we faced them for the first time, Bruce Arena is an experienced coach, players like (Gustavo) Bou and Gil can make the difference at any time," Henry said. "They also have experienced players. The feeling is that the season starts again, and we will face that team again."

There, too, Arena concurs.

“It’ll be challenging," he put it succinctly.