ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — The Montreal Impact are heading into their first competitive match of the year under far from ideal circumstances, but that has not stopped them from believing in their chances to get a result in a hostile environment against a challenging opponent.
The Impact are set to open their 2020 schedule on Wednesday night when they take on Deportivo Saprissa in the first leg of their Concacaf Champions League Round of 16 series. The MLS side enters the match in Costa Rica having had a rough preseason, one in which it not only lost star attacker Ignacio Piatti but also had scoring issues in most of their exhibitions.
“It’s going to be tough. I’m not going to lie, especially how we’re arriving there against a team that has won it three times already,” said Impact head coach Thierry Henry. “You have to respect that, but we’re going there to fight and play. I expect a game that’s going to be hard. You go there, they always make it difficult, but you have to go there and perform and try to play the best way we can play with what we’ve got to try to do and fight in a good way.”
Another factor going against the Impact is that this will be their first official fixture this year, meaning there are still plenty of offseason cobwebs to shake off and fitness levels to reach. Conversely, Deportivo Saprissa has already played nine times in the Costa Rican first division in 2020, compiling a 6-1-2 record that has produced 13 goals for and six against.
None of that will serve as an excuse for the Impact once the ball gets rolling, however.
“It is what it is,” said Henry. “That’s how the season starts, and that’s the only thing we can do.”
As for their inability to find the back of the net in preseason, the Canadian outfit is not overly worried. The Impact may have gone almost four consecutive preseason matches without striking gold — only snapping that drought with a penalty kick in the final seconds of this past weekend’s bout vs. the Tampa Bay Rowdies — but the inner belief is that the goals will come if they can continue to create the types of chances that they produced in recent weeks.
“I wouldn’t say it’s concerning,” said midfielder Amar Sejdic. “…When we do start scoring goals then I don’t think we’re going to stop. It’s just going to be on the throttle.”
The Impact are hoping that the goals start coming on Wednesday, even if they are not playing under ideal circumstances and even if the challenge in front of them is a big one.
“We’ve got to believe that we can do something,” said Henry.