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Montreal Impact, Thierry Henry welcome Wanyama; Expect challenge at FC Dallas

Thierry Henry on Victor Wanyama: “He can excel on the defensive and offensive sides of the ball.”

New MLS Montreal Impact soccer player Victor Wanyama, left, talks with head coach Thierry Henry during a practice in Montreal on Wednesday, March 4, 2020. (Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press via AP)

MONTREAL — Heading into his first Major League Soccer road game as Montreal Impact head coach, Thierry Henry is expecting a test for his squad against FC Dallas.

“They like to play on the ball. They are very difficult to play against over there in general,” Henry said. “They were able to beat a Philadelphia team that’s tough to manage.”

Henry remembered his away matches at Toyota Stadium from his playing days at the New York Red Bulls. For him, the Texas heat was always a factor, so a March visit could make things easier.

“In general, when I would go to Dallas as a player, it would always be in the summer and believe me that it’s not easy,” Henry said. “For us, it’s a bit better [in the winter] even if it’s still a big weather difference for us.

“Regardless of the game and the team, it’s always difficult in MLS, so we’ll need to hang tight. They have very good players that can make a difference.”

For Henry, the style of the game will depend on what FC Dallas will put on the pitch. The Frenchman insisted that the team has a game plan heading in but “if it doesn’t happen, you need to adapt.”

“Ultimately we would like to have [possession of the ball] because you run less,” Henry said. “But if you don’t, you also need to do what you need to do to be able to tackle that.”

The Impact’s two new signings, Victor Wanyama and Emanuel Maciel, will not be available for Saturday. Henry said that both players are still waiting for the necessary paperwork as of Thursday, but added “we’re not in a hurry.” 

Henry on Wanyama: Tough, composed and balanced

Henry had no trouble to say that his new designated player is a great addition to his squad. However, the Frenchman did have a bit of trouble mentioning which team Victor Wanyama signed from: Tottenham Hotspur.

“Everybody knows Victor Wanyama. You saw what he did at Celtic, in Belgium and — I won’t say the name of the other team,” said the former Arsenal player. “He’s tough on one-on-ones, composed and he can balance a team. He can excel on the defensive and offensive sides of the ball so it’s great for us.” 

Henry assisted the Kenyan international’s press conference on Wednesday and enjoyed his new player’s selflessness. When asked by photographers to turn around and reveal his jersey name and number, Wanyama refused. Instead, he bumped the Impact logo on his chest and said: “What’s more important is this.”

“That’s what’s most important to us,” Henry said. “The name in the back is only for television and supporters. He knows his name so he didn’t have to turn around.” 

The head coach also enjoyed Wanyama’s warrior mentality and his willingness to work hard at his new club.

“Any player should have that mentality of not losing a game,” Henry said. “You always have ways of losing a game. I always mention that sometimes you’re going to play against a team that’s better than you but it’s unacceptable that a team works harder than you.”

Emanuel Maciel eager to contribute

Eclipsed by new designated player Victor Wanyama, another new arrival made his first strides for the Impact this week. Maciel was acquired on a free transfer in the deal that sent Ignacio Piatti back to Argentine side San Lorenzo.

“I understand that the pace is a little bit quicker over here but I’m 100 percent and I’m ready for when the coach will need me,” Maciel said through a translator. 

Impact veteran Saphir Taider knows that the club will need to help the 22 year-old through his new environment and the culture shock.

“We try to make it as easy as possible, he just came in and he’s young,” Taider said. “Of course, there’s the language barrier too. Little by little, it’ll be about not asking him too much and not shocking him.”

Maciel acknowledged that being implicated in the move that sent Piatti back to his former club isn’t easy. Despite that, he is eager to help the team from his central midfielder position.

“It’s obvious that Nacho did a lot of great things over here, it’s not easy to replicate that,” Maciel said. “But I’m here to bring what I have to bring and to give as much as I can to the team.”

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