MONTREAL — Thierry Henry is relishing the chance to prove himself as a manger with the Montreal Impact after his ill-fated spell in charge of Monaco, the French World Cup winner told a standing-room only crowd of reporters Monday at his introductory press conference.
“The only mistake that you can make is not learning from what happened,” Henry said of his time at Monaco, which didn’t even last four months earlier this year after his team won just four times in 20 games. “Like I said, it was a great learning process. I'm more than happy to have this opportunity with this club and this city.”
This French-speaking Canadian metropolis of 3.5 million seems just as glad to have him. Henry’s arrival has been the talk of Montreal since the Impact announced his hiring out of nowhere on Thursday.
The honeymoon won’t last forever, though. There is plenty off work to do at Stade Saputo. While the Impact were 45 minutes away from becoming the first MLS team to win the CONCACAF Champions League in 2015 and narrowly missed out on a trip to MLS Cup the following year, they haven’t made the playoffs since.
With a two-year contract in hand, Henry should have time to build an Impact squad in his image. Then again, patience has not been a virtue for the reigning Canadian champs. Henry, 42, is the club’s sixth manager since Montreal made the jump to MLS in 2012.
Henry insisted he’s not worried about getting the time he needs to succeed.
“That’s not the type of thing I think of,” he said. “You have to start somewhere. You cannot acquire experience without taking jobs.”
European coaches have struggled historically adapting to the the peculiarities of the U.S. and Canada’s top-flight circuit. The travel is grueling, the roster restrictions convoluted. But unlike many of his predecessors, Henry knows exactly what he’s getting into, having ended his glorious playing career — in addition to winning the 1998 World Cup with France, he’s also Arsenal’s all-time top scorer — in 2014 after four and a half seasons with the New York Red Bulls. Before leading Monaco, he was Belgium’s assistant coach at the 2018 World Cup, and he also worked with Arsenal’s academy.
Henry would like to turn the Impact into more of an attacking team, a welcome change after his compatriot, Remi Garde, elected to use a more defensive scheme before being fired and replaced with Wilmer Cabrera late last season.
“The style I like is very in-your-face, very direct, trying to put pressure on the back but also having a plan B because this league is ruthless sometimes,” Henry said.
Quebec native and former Impact captain Patrice Bernier, who served as Cabrera’s deputy and who could fill a similar role under Henry, said that the new boss’ experience as an MLS player will help him hit the ground running.
“He knows the league,” Bernier told Yahoo Sports. “Now it's about just putting his footprint as a coach.”
Henry, for his part, can’t wait to get started in a city he has always enjoyed visiting.
“You take the best part of Europe and you take the best part of this continent, North America, you're arriving in Montreal,” he said. “The city is just outstanding.”
And of course, he knows he has something to prove after what happened in his last job.
“But, you know, those are the experiences where you find out about yourself,” he said. “Hopefully that's going to help me to become a good coach.”
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