After an enthralling first leg in San José, Costa Rica, the Montreal Impact played out to a 0-0 draw against Deportivo Saprissa on Wednesday night, progressing to the quarterfinals of the Concacaf Champions League. Thierry Henry’s men will now face off against Thursday’s winner between the Seattle Sounders and Honduran outfit CD Olimpia.
While Saprissa dominated much of the possession, the Impact held firm, conceding little to the visitors and emerged victorious on away goals.
“When you look at the game we suffered throughout but we dealt well with their aerial threat,” said Henry. “They are a team that moves the ball extremely well. Even though we had less of the ball we still had our own chances to score. We did just enough in the first leg to progress.”
The Impact’s play in the final third left a lot to be desired at times, however, Henry will take solace in his side’s progression.
“You need results all the time, doesn’t matter where you are. That’s the story of football,” said Henry. “This is a team that forces you to play a certain way and you have to respect that. I watched Napoli and Barcelona. You want to attack Barcelona, but it’s difficult. Style will come later.”
Opting to stick with his pragmatic setup, Henry maintained his back five and instructed the Impact to stay deep, looking to hit the Costa Ricans on the counter. The Frenchman’s tactics almost immediately paid off after Bojan pounced on a poor back-pass in the opening minutes of the game, but the Impact forward saw his effort saved.
“We only have two games in our legs this season. I was happy to see my team fight until the final whistle in both games,” said Henry. “When it comes to competitiveness, I have nothing to tell them.”
Newly-acquired defender Luis Binks made his Impact debut and seemed unfazed by the occasion. Playing on the left-hand side of Montreal’s back-five, the former Tottenham man progressed play nicely and thwarted a number of Saprissa’s dangerous attacks. Henry, however, maintains there’s still room for improvement for the 18-year-old.
“He played well against a tough team. He committed some fouls he didn’t have to make a couple of times, but he learned,” said Henry. “He was pretty solid and kept his composure, playing out of the back at times even though it was difficult.”
The Impact won’t have much time for rest as they will be hosting the New England Revolution on Saturday in their season opener. After losing Rudy Camacho to injury in the first leg and seeing captain Jukka Raitala go down last night, Henry will have to make do with the squad at his disposal.
“We have to see who will be available. Typically, MLS teams that compete in the Concacaf Champions League struggle at the beginning of the season,” said the French tactician. “I hope it doesn’t happen to us. It’s always nice to start the season by progressing in this tournament. Now we have to focus on the game against New England on Saturday, it will be a different game.”