Not too far removed from his playing days in Major League Soccer, Thierry Henry knows all about the challenge of getting a result on the road.
Henry will coach his first away game in MLS when his Montreal Impact (1-0-0) face FC Dallas (1-0-0) on Saturday.
“Having played in this league, whatever match, whatever team, it’s always difficult to play on the road in MLS,” Henry said. “[Dallas] have very good players who can make a difference.
“It’s up to us to counter them.”
Henry played 122 regular-season games in MLS with the New York Red Bulls from 2010 to 2014. His record in Dallas was 1-1-1.
“When I went to Dallas as a player, it was always summertime,” he said. “Trust me, it wasn’t easy. This will be a little better, although there’s still a wide gap in the temperature between here and there. It’s always difficult over there.”
The Impact have lost all four games in franchise history at Toyota Stadium.
Henry was victorious in his MLS coaching debut at home last Saturday. Montreal conceded early to the New England Revolution before rallying for the 2-1 win on Maximiliano Urruti’s perfect chip from distance in the 80th minute.
FC Dallas also opened their season with three points. Second-half strikes from Zdenek Ondrasek and substitute Paxton Pomykal gave them a 2-0 victory over the Philadelphia Union.
The always-dangerous Pomykal is slowly regaining match fitness following hernia surgery last fall. The 20-year-old is an explosive option off the bench that Montreal will need to contain late in the game.
“They like to play on the ball,” Henry said. “They’re hard to play against, especially there. We saw it last week. They managed to defeat a Philadelphia side that’s not easy to beat.”
The Impact continue to deal with several injuries early in the season and the first-year coach does not have a full roster.
In midfield, winger Lassi Lappalainen (leg) is out three to four weeks after reaggravating his injury in a late substitute appearance in the season opener. Orji Okwonkwo (glute) remains day to day.
At the back, captain Jukka Raitala (fibula) is sidelined until May. Central defender Rudy Camacho (knee) was on the pitch for some light training this week, though he is not expected back before the end of the month.
Also unavailable for the Impact is newly signed defensive midfielder Victor Wanyama, who is still waiting on a visa. The 28-year-old designated player has more than a decade of experience playing in Belgium, Scotland and England.
Henry does not want his side getting discouraged by the list of absentees. The former Arsenal star often dismisses individual talents while preaching a team-first mentality. And the players are buying in.
“It’s a very team-oriented culture,” said centre back Joel Waterman, who had an assist in his MLS debut last week. “We’re all trying to get better. He’s there to make us better. We have to feed off each other and that passion.
“That’s how we’re going to get results.”
Part of the task for Henry on Saturday will be managing his already depleted lineup while considering the upcoming CONCACAF Champions League tie four days later.
The Impact host C.D. Olimpia of Honduras at Olympic Stadium for the first leg of the CCL quarter-final on Tuesday.
Despite Montreal’s injury woes and busy schedule, FC Dallas coach Luchi Gonzalez is still preparing for a strong offensive showing from the Henry-led Impact.
“Obviously, Thierry has a world-class background as a player,” Gonzalez told the team’s website this week. “He knows the league well. He played in a club that was offensive minded. He did well offensively himself with the Red Bulls.
“What I see in the short term is a team that’s trying to create vertically and get involved with the attack. So we need to be ready defensively for that.”