Thierry Henry typically finds at least a few positives after any Montreal Impact loss. On Wednesday night, after a 3-2 loss to the New England Revolution at Red Bull Arena, he had trouble finding any.
“It’s really hard to be positive tonight," Henry said. "Some nights I try to find the positives, but tonight it’s really hard. We lost [Rod Fanni], [Saphir Taider] is leaving, [Clement Diop] isn’t there. We find ourselves down two goals again and trying to catch up which makes us spend more energy. So it’s hard.”
It was an eventful day well before the match for the Impact: First up, there was Taider’s transfer to Saudi Pro League club Al-Ain. Later in the day, starting goalkeeper Diop returned to his native France for personal reasons, leaving homegrown goalkeeper James Pantemis to take over. Diop’s return to the Impact has yet to be determined.
When asked to comment on his team transferring one of their two Designated Players, Henry answered: “I would like to talk about the game.”
“I said the same thing [when ex-goalkeeper Evan Bush got traded],” Henry added. “I didn’t have time to speak to Saphir. We needed to prepare the game.”
Highlights: Montreal 2, New England 3
Following those key Impact departures, two young players emerged with golden opportunities: Pantemis and second-year player Amar Sejdic. The former earned his first start and will likely continue to be called upon. The latter took advantage of Taider’s absence in Week 17 to open his Impact account against the Philadelphia Union and he scored his second goal of the season against New England.
“For me as a player, I’m just trying to soak up all the information like a sponge from the coaching staff trying to learn as much as possible and become a better player,” Sejdic said postgame. “So if they want me to play in any of the attacking positions, if they want me to drop in as a midfielder I’m more than happy to do so. My biggest thing is just enjoying playing and winning games.”
As for Pantemis, the pressure was on for his first MLS start. The 23 year old was thrown into the starting job after coming back from a loan spell with the Canadian Premier League’s Valour FC.
Teammate Shamit Shome admitted that it was “a bit of a roller coaster in terms of how it happened for him with everything that’s going on with the club.”
“We really wanted to come out strong and give him a clean sheet to build that confidence,” Shome said. “Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case but I think he can hold his head up and think that there’s not much he could’ve done and he did good for his first game.”
The Week 18 loss was the Impact's third straight setback against the Revs in 2020. That stat stuck in the back of Henry’s mind: Despite the depleted team, the Frenchman wanted more from his players.
“It’s another game against New England and I get the same impression against them where they wanted it more than us at the start,” Henry said. “They showed it and they took advantage even though there are mistakes that are quite easily manageable.”
Montreal has another game on Saturday night against Inter Miami CF before they are able to head back north to recharge their batteries: something to look forward to along the bumpy road that is the Impact’s 2020 MLS season.