A purple storm hit the Montreal Impact in the second half, Wednesday night at the Ricardo Saprissa stadium. The Montreal squad has struggled with it to the point of being in fairly good shape halfway through the knockout stages of the Concacaf Champions League tournament.
After a mixed preparatory schedule, the Impact almost caused a big surprise, but ultimately had to settle for a 2-2 draw against Deportivo Saprissa.
Whitened in the first half in each of their five preparatory games, Thierry Henry’s players struck twice in 10 minutes, courtesy of Orji Okwonkwo and newcomer Romell Quioto.
In the second half, the Impact did little more than defend themselves, which it almost managed to do impeccably thanks to a lively and alert Clément Diop.
During those 45 minutes, the Saprissa fired 18 shots at Diop, 11 of which hit the target. Diop gave in to Impact veteran Johan Venegas in the 80th minute and then to Jonathan Martinez 10 minutes later.
“Frankly, I can’t be disappointed,” said Henry at a press conference. There may be a little frustration, but no disappointment because the team fought to the end with the weapons we had, coming out of a preseason which was super hard, I can you say it “.
“In the first half, it was a great first half on our side. In the second half, it was a great half on their side. So it was a two-half story, “he added.
In addition to missing a two-goal lead, the Impact emerged slightly battered from this game. In the first half, Henry was forced to use two of his three changes after losing the services of defenseman Rudy Camacho, injured in one knee, and Okwonkwo, injured in a gluteal muscle. They were replaced by Joel Waterman and Maximiliano Urruti.
Quioto left the game in the 71st minute and was replaced by Ballou Tabla. In his case, the injury is by no means serious. The return match will be presented next Wednesday at the Olympic Stadium and the Impact leaves with a substantial advantage thanks to two goals scored abroad.
“It’s still nice to bring something back, but it doesn’t mean anything on arrival. You also have to try to be successful at home and prepare for this match. It’s going to be difficult, you saw the quality of this team, “analyzed Henry.
“It’s a team that really knows how to play ball. We were able to hinder them a little in the first half, it was a lot harder in the second, but I don’t mean to say that I was disappointed with the match and the result. It’s really impossible because the team gave everything. And once the team has given everything, upon arrival, you don’t really want to say anything about that. “
The match did not start in front of a packed house, but that does not mean that the spectators present were not ignited. In no way hindered by a swirling wind in the stadium of modest stature, nor by the fine drizzle that fell, the supporters of Saprissa began to manifest themselves a few minutes before the start of the match by singing aloud, supported by a brass band which had taken place in the South section, usually reserved for members of Ultra Morada.
The songs were amplified when the local players appeared on the playing surface. This enthusiasm did not necessarily translate into an explosive departure of the Saprissa, faced with a formation which had decided to call on five defenders to protect the Diop fortress.
The first good chances to score came in the sixth minute, one on each side. The first belonged to the Impact, but Bojan’s shot flew over the crossbar. Shortly after, Ricardo Blanco narrowly missed the target for the Saprissa.
Some six minutes later, the Montreal squad managed to dampen the enthusiasm of Costa Rican fans, helped by a monumental blunder by David Guzman just outside their penalty area. Guzman simply directed the ball towards Quioto, who passed it to Bojan, posted a few yards from him.
Bojan’s shot was blocked by an opposing defender, but the ball rebounded towards Okwonkwo, who shot a powerful shot that gave Aaron Cruz, a defender in the top end of the net, to his right, no chance.
Then in the 22nd minute, Quioto scored his first goal in the Impact’s uniform. After receiving a clear pass from Bojan, Quioto introduced himself on the left flank, easily entered the penalty area before placing the ball over Cruz.
The Saprissa, however, turned things around in the second half.