MONTREAL — The Montreal Impact know exactly what they’re up against as they begin their Major League Soccer playoff journey, and coach Thierry Henry says the path forward isn't easy.
“It’s going to be a tough one again," he said on a video call Thursday. "That’s the story of our season."
The Impact (8-13-2) are in the playoffs for the first time since 2016, but in order to move on from the play-in round, they'll have to beat the New England Revolution (8-7-8) on Friday.
Montreal faced New England four times in regular-season action. Just one of those games resulted in an Impact win.
The Revs are "very competitive and aggressive in the right way," and the Impact will need to be ready, Henry said.
"We need to find a solution to beat them," he added.
All but one of the meetings between the two clubs this year was decided by a single goal. In the last outing, New England got an early start, taking a 2-0 lead in the 20th minute en route to a 3-2 victory.
The Revs were simply better in most of the games this year, said Montreal forward Romell Quioto.
"It’s a very difficult team to face," the Honduran international said through a translator. "It’s a team that battles through 90 minutes and the Impact will have to play a very intelligent match and play a full 90 minutes with passion and heart to get a result.”
Montreal will be without a couple of key players for Friday's contest.
Midfielder Samuel Piette is serving a suspension after receiving a red card late in the Impact's 3-2 win over D.C. United on Nov. 8, and Victor Wanyama has not yet returned from playing for the Kenyan national team.
The club isn't thinking about who won't be on the field, Henry said.
“We’re going to try to concentrate on who is playing and what we can do. Obviously we are underdogs," the coach said. "But we’re going to go there and try to perform. And it doesn’t matter who’s playing.”
Henry will have one new face available, with Steevan Saba returning from injury.
The 27-year-old Haitian midfielder has yet to play an MLS game for the Impact, despite signing with the club in February. He was out for much of the regular season after breaking his foot in May while on a jog in Montreal.
Saba said he tried hard to stay positive as he recovered, telling himself "everything in life is an experience."
The mood was positive at training this week, too, Saba said.
“We’re in the playoffs. Everyone’s happy, we’re excited to go play," he said. "And we’re ready for whatever comes at us. That’s what you expect from a group in the playoffs.”
The Impact were able to use their own facilities in Montreal this week after the MLS received approval from the federal government for modified work quarantines.
Pandemic-related border restrictions forced all three Canadian MLS clubs to move south in mid-September. The Impact posted up in Harrison, N.J., living at a hotel and playing home games at Red Bull Arena.
The league also condensed its schedule following a pandemic hiatus, forcing teams to play twice a week for much of the regular season.
Having a full week to train at home ahead of Friday's game "changes everything," Henry said.
"It’s always better to prepare for a game the way we’ve prepared for this one," he said.
MONTREAL IMPACT (8-13-2) AT NEW ENGLAND REVOLUTION (8-7-8)
Friday, Gillette Stadium
COVID CASE: One New England player will miss Friday's game after testing positive for COVID-10 on Sunday. The club says the player — who has not been named — immediately self-isolated and all other players and staff tested negative on Sunday.
KEEPING BUSY: Montreal goalkeeper Clement Diop made the third-most saves (73) during MLS regular-season action. Despite his work, the Impact allowed 43 goals — more than any other team in the Eastern Conference.
HOME FIELD ADVANTAGE?: The Revolution have struggled at Gillette Stadium this year, posting a 2-3-5 home record during the regular season.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 19, 2020.
The Canadian Press