Since their inaugural MLS season in 2012, the Montreal Impact have been somewhat of an outsider, with their French-Canadian roots and Italian influence, often marching to the beat of their own drum. Now, they have a manager in Thierry Henry who has made a career of doing the same.
Consider this, in his first match against Montreal on March 31, 2012, Henry compiled his first and only hat trick for the New York Red Bulls in a 5-2 romp.
The Montreal manager then was Jesse Marsch. On that day, no one could have imagined Marsch would become the most celebrated manager in Red Bulls history, and Henry – the most decorated player in Red Bulls history – would take over as manager in Montreal. One could say the circle of life is complete.
“It’s a league I know well, in which I had some very nice moments,” Henry said in a club statement. “To be in Quebec, in Montreal, which has an enormous multicultural heritage, it’s extraordinary. I’ve always kept an eye on the club, and now I’m here.”
Clearly, the Frenchman was inspired by Montreal even while playing for the Red Bulls. He scored in every match he faced the Impact, with an absurd nine goals and four assists in five matches.
His highlights came one after another, from a back-heel assist to Mehdi Ballouchy in that first win, to a bicycle kick finish on May 8, 2013, to a pass that set up Bradley Wright-Phillips’ 19th goal of the season on Aug. 23, 2014, tying Juan Pablo Angel’s single-season club record.
Henry is more than a marvelous player, though; an enigmatic character with a domineering presence. Earlier this year, in his first managerial stint at Monaco, an unrepairable rift formed between he and his players.
Now, Henry begins a second lease on managerial life, moving from his boyhood club to the league that witnessed his swan song. The marriage of Henry and Montreal is fitting – beyond the French connection – as both aim to redeem a poor start.
For Henry, it’s about erasing the bad taste of that 104-day tenure at Monaco. For the Impact, who have missed the postseason five of their first eight seasons in MLS, it’s about establishing relevance and proving they are more than an also-ran.