When healthy and at home, New York striker Thierry Henry has given Montreal fits.
Another standout performance from the Frenchman on Saturday could result in the teams potentially sharing the Eastern Conference lead as the Red Bulls host the Impact.
Montreal (9-4-4) leads the East with 31 points, one better than Sporting Kansas City and three more than New York (8-7-4). Henry, who missed the Impact’s 1-0 home victory over the Red Bulls on March 23 due to a sprained knee, again showed his worth in the most recent meeting May 8 by netting both goals in a 2-1 victory at Red Bull Arena.
Henry secured the three points with a bicycle kick from the six-yard box in the 88th minute and recorded a hat trick versus Montreal in a 5-2 win last year - the only two matches New York has hosted between the teams. Henry - named to the MLS All-Star Fan XI team that will face Italian side AS Roma on July 31 - has six goals in three lifetime matches against the Impact, his most against any MLS team.
The Red Bulls, however, have lost three of four following their 2-0 defeat at Colorado on July 4. They registered just one shot on goal there and have conceded nine goals during a 1-3-1 stretch - an ominous sign with Impact forward Marco Di Vaio tied for the MLS lead with 11 goals.
“We want to play close to him and not give him space,” defender Markus Holgersson said of Di Vaio, who scored the match-winner in March and accounted for Montreal’s goal in the loss in May. “We have to be aware of their counterattacks, especially Di Vaio.”
Di Vaio, who won an interactive video game fan vote to claim the final All-Star Fan XI spot, has scored a goal in all three matches he has played against New York. But it was midfielder Patrice Bernier who accounted for the equalizing goal Sunday in a 1-all draw versus Chivas USA that allowed the Impact to salvage a point against the West’s last-place team.
“We have to admit that this is a tough spell for us, with only two points out of a possible nine,” defender Hassoun Camara said. “There’s a lot of physical fatigue, a little mental fatigue, but it’s a long season and we had to expect that. We have to be strong and stay the course.”
While Montreal has gone winless in a season-worst three straight matches (0-1-2), coach Marco Schallibaum was pleased with his team’s defense after it had been shredded for seven goals in its previous two games.
“In general, we were solid at the back apart from that one costly mistake,” Schallibaum said. “I don’t think they got another chance. And with all due respect, against teams like those, if you don’t make the difference early on, the game’s going to get tougher. With the chances we created, we could have won the game.”
On the road, the Impact’s defense has struggled preventing opponents from creating quality chances. Of the 31 shots on goal Troy Perkins has faced in eight road matches, 13 have found the back of the net.
New York had five shots on target in its home victory in May and a sixth that hit the crossbar.
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