Sports Zurkowsky: Has Henry run out of answers as Impact continues its slide?
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It seems to no longer matter who’s on the pitch, whether the Impact’s playing with a back four or five, and whether manager— as he did last Saturday — or others.
This team simply isn’t good enough most nights. The Impact, as Samuel Piette proclaimed, might arguably be able to play with any Major League Soccer side, but isn’t generating the necessary results. And even if the Impact’s one of the 10 clubs — out of 14 in the Eastern Conference — that makes the playoffs, it seems virtually certain its post-season run will be short.
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It’s clear Henry, the rookie manager who was so gifted as a striker, is losing patience with his players. And he no longer has the answers after watching the Impact lose,— a competitive side, albeit an expansion franchise — Tuesday night.
“Whether you play a back four or back five, it doesn’t matter if you make a mistake like that. You’re going to get punished. That was a massive mistake,” an emotional Henry said during his post-game video conference call.
One defensive blunder, a moment where concentration was lost, cost Montreal. A quick free kick by Alex Muyl found Randall Leal, who got in behind, for the game’s only goal. If Binks was guilty, so too was captain Jukka Raitala, whose tackle led to the free kick and who clearly was caught by surprise when it was played so quickly by Muyl.
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“We talked about it. We saw clips. We saw videos … this morning. The day before and the day before,” Henry said, repeating the latter phrase three more times for emphasis. “And they’re still looking at the ball. They’re not looking at the run. We have to learn.
“The only thing you can do is repeat, work and hopefully, one day, they’ll understand. It’s costing us games. Apart from repeating and repeating and doing it again and repeating and repeating and doing it again, there’s not much I can do.
“And by the way,” Henry added, “that was a back four today and a different player.”
Indeed. Rudy Camacho,on New York City FC’s opening goal — and a frequent repeat offender this season — spent Tuesday evening on the bench, serving his penance. At least, for once, it wasn’t his fault.
“Obviously I’m at fault,” said Raitala, who was playing his first game after representing Finland in international competition. “They played a ball very fast. What can you say? A couple of seconds we were sleeping and they played that well. There’s nothing to say about it. It was a very bad goal to concede. That’s pretty much it.”
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It has been well documented this has been an atypical season due to the coronavirus pandemic, in virtually every sport that has resumed. Impact players and Henry have been asked, ad infinitum, about having to play home games and train in Harrison, N.J., and about the condensed schedule with little recovery time. And the plethora of injuries it has had to deal with. Enough already.
“Obviously it’s not a fun situation, but I don’t want to talk about it,” Raitala said. “We can’t do anything about it. We have to accept it. It’s tough, but you can’t hide behind it. We’re professionals. It doesn’t matter where we are, when we play.”
While Piette expressed some confusion as to exactly what message from Henry isn’t sinking in to their craniums for whatever reason, he had to admit the club keeps making the same mistakes, although he offered an explanation.
“We paid the price tonight on a stupid action, an action out of nowhere. A free kick in the middle of the park. One pass through and the guy’s alone,” Piette said. “If that’s (Henry’s) message, yes. These are things you can’t train for, things you can’t work on at training. It’s just a lack of communication.”
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The Impact remains — perhaps temporarily — above the playoff line, in ninth place, two points ahead of both Chicago and Inter Miami, although both hold games in hand.
Things don’t get any easier for the Impact, which meets Orlando City — a team well ahead of Montreal in the standings — Sunday night. And if form holds true, that will be another loss before the Impact concludes its schedule Nov. 8, in Washington, against D.C. United, one of the conference’s weaker clubs.
We’re about to find out the level of desire and passion Impact players possess.
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