Montreal Impact 2020 Preview: What does Thierry Henry’s first year look like?

Montreal Impact Preview
MONTREAL, QC — Aug. 28: Montreal Impact forward Maximiliano Urruti (37) shows pride after scoring a goal during the Vancouver Whitecaps FC versus the Montreal Impact game on August 28, 2019, at Stade Saputo in Montreal, QC (Photo by David Kirouac/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images).

Editorial — The Montreal Impact are waiting on an impact of their own. All of the attention around Montreal isn’t necessarily laser-focused on the players. Right now, there’s a lot of focus and attention turning toward Thierry Henry.

Montreal Impact 2020 Preview: What kind of effect will Thierry Henry have in year one?

What kind of impact will he have on the club? Or, will Henry be able to turn his coaching career around after a fiasco with AS Monaco? These are questions that will be on the mind of plenty of Impact fans.

However, the players are also turning some eyes, too. Recently, Montreal made some additions by bringing in English centerback Luis Binks. Meanwhile, the Impact also scooped up Emanuel Maciel on a free transfer from Argentinian club San Lorenzo. Will these new signings be enough for the Impact to make a playoff run — or have a chance in the Concacaf Champions League?

Here’s three questions regarding the Impact ahead of the 2020 season.

What kind of manager will Henry be? 

It’s a broad question, but it’s fair.

Nobody proclaimed “who?” when the Impact named their head coach this off-season. Henry is a legendary striker in the game, who featured for big clubs like Juventus, Arsenal and Barcelona. He also got his first taste of MLS when he joined the New York Red Bulls and stayed from 2010-14.

Henry is a name familiar to MLS and soccer fans everywhere. But, his choices as a manager will decide if he becomes popular to the Montreal faithful over time. Henry compiled a record of 4-5-11 with Monaco.

Granted, back then he was a first-year coach. Now, with some trial and error under his belt, Henry has a chance to right the ship. It will take time, though. Montreal is in a tough conference and has to compete for Canadian powerhouse rights with Toronto FC. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and Henry isn’t going make Montreal a MLS Cup champion in one season. But, if the Impact can make the playoffs, that will be deemed a huge improvement.

Is this finally the right-fit defense for the Impact?

Víctor Cabrera, Daniel Lovitz, Daniel Kinumbe and Bacary Sagna are out. Those four players were part of the Montreal Impact defense in 2019 that allowed 60 goals last year. That was the second-most goals allowed in the Eastern Conference last year, behind last-place FC Cincinnati.

There are some returning players on defense, like Jorge Corrales and Finnish defender Jukka Raitala. Adding a young English defender in Binks will help a young, but growing team. The Impact aren’t going to record a clean sheet every game, but it’s vital that the new defenders find chemistry with goalkeeper Evan Bush.

That’s why having Raitala and Corrales back is big for the Impact. Now, after a year of watching goals fly by them, the defense has a better idea of their competition. And, they have a year’s worth of chemistry with Bush to improve on.

There is a wide range of ages on the defense, though. Rod Fanni is 38-years-old, while Karifa Yao is only 19. Fanni saw his role decrease majorly in 2019, as he only made three appearances and starts, totaling 270 minutes. Fanni joined the team in 2018, where he made 26 appearances.

Montreal needs to find a defense that will jell together quickly and efficiently.

How much can Maximiliano Urruti really do? 

There have been players that have certainly carried teams on their backs in sports. However, in soccer, that’s just not possible. So, when Maximiliano Urruti re-joined the team for 2020, fans rejoiced that their “savior” was back.

However, one player can’t sustain that much pressure over eight to nine months.

Urruti is a talented player from Argentina. Last year, though, he scored only four goals in the span of 31 appearances. He’s easily the most recognizable name in MLS on the Impact’s roster — and that certainly comes with a sort of pressure to perform. Urruti can’t entirely carry the Impact’s roster and their entire season.

Right now, there’s only one other forward signed on the Impact’s roster. Anthony Jackson-Hamel is the hometown guy who scored three goals in 16 appearances last year. The Impact will need him to step up and have a bigger role.

Although, I believe there’s a certain Icelandic-American that could fit into the role quite nicely. As I wrote previously, Aron Jóhannsson can always head to Montreal and revitalize his career in MLS.

What’s Next? 

Montreal will kick off their Concacaf Champions League campaign on Wednesday against Costa Rican powerhouse Saprissa. The match will begin at 8 p.m. EST and will be held at the Estadio Ricardo Saprissa Aymá.

Montreal will host Saprissa for the second leg on Feb. 26, at the same time.

 

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