While the objective is crystal clear for the Montreal Impact – a win over the Vancouver Whitecaps Wednesday (9:30 pm ET | TSN1, TVA Sports in Canada; MLS LIVE on ESPN+ in US) by any scoreline puts them in the Canadian Championship final – Thierry Henry knows achieving that goal will be tricky.
“If you lose at home against a team and you have the chance to play them three days after, you’re going to do everything in your power to make sure that you rectify that,” the Impact coach told reporters in a video conference call. “Straight away after, it’s not easy to beat a team back-to-back. It’s going to be extremely difficult.”
The Impact put themselves in this win-and-they’re-in scenario by beating the Whitecaps 4-2 Sunday night at BC Place. It was a tense and physical affair, and both teams finished with 10 men after Lucas Cavallini and Emanuel Maciel were sent off during separate incidents in the second half.
Cavallini has since apologized for his actions that resulted in his second bookable offense, but Montreal defender Jukka Raitala thinks that bite will persist in the rematch.
“I think Vancouver is a very physical team, a lot of physical players who like to tackle, who like to fight and those kind of situations create tension with the strikers and defenders. I expect that to happen [Wednesday],” Raitala said. “I think that’s one of their stronger weapons. But I think we have to, what we showed a few days ago, we have to stay calm, we have to keep moving the ball well. The surface is very fast, so when you switch the sides, keep passing. We can and we will be very dangerous.”
Whitecaps coach Marc Dos Santos wants to see that emotion from his side, but in a constructive fashion.
“Bring that emotion in the right way. Bring that emotion on the ball, bring that emotion on the field, on how we want to defend, on how we want to create,” he told reporters. "Bring that emotion to the game, not that emotion involving individual players and allowing some of the experienced players Montreal has to get in your head, to try to influence the game in those type of ways.”
Dos Santos said they have several options to fill Cavallini’s void, and they have experience after the striker opted out of the MLS is Back Tournament earlier this summer. While Maciel has proven key to the Impact’s midfield, Henry also has choices he’s weighing. He was particularly complimentary of Saphir Taider embracing his current role.
“We have a way to defend, allowing him to find himself in spots where he can receive the ball and have good support. And when we attack, we have another structure,” Henry said in French. “Saphir, when he respects the structure as he is doing it right now, becomes a very good player in MLS. He is involved in most of our chances – his moves, his passes, his pressing without the ball make him particularly important.”
Montreal have twice defeated the Whitecaps during Phase 1 of the regular-season restart, first 2-0 at Stade Saputo on Aug. 25 and then in Sunday’s two-goal victory. But Henry said they won't be taking their opponent lightly.
“Complacency is not in my dictionary, so I never talk about it,” Henry said. “I always talk about trying to win games and go forward and sometimes it doesn’t happen. When it doesn’t happen, I try to rectify it.”
HIGHLIGHTS: Vancouver Whitecaps FC 2, Montreal Impact 4
As such, the Impact aren’t expecting to change their style of play. The match has double implications, counting in the MLS standings and their Canadian Championship aspirations.
“We want to go forward, we want to score goals, we want to play entertaining soccer,” Raitala said. "Obviously if we’re at the end of the game leading and its 85 minutes you have to be clever, but otherwise if we score the first goal, we want to score the second or third. We can’t go into the game thinking about only winning that game 1-0.”
While the Impact are 90 minutes from reaching an important objective, the Whitecaps have struggled. Vancouver have lost four of their five all-Canadian matches since returning from Orlando. Dos Santos said it’s only getting harder from here, with the ‘Caps currently set to meet Real Salt Lake, LAFC and the Portland Timbers.
“To be frustrated is not an answer,” Dos Santos said. “We need maturity in the group to understand mistakes, to understand what we have to do better to move on. We are addressing a lot of things, but I have a lot of confidence for [Wednesday’s] game.”