Tag Archives: Ignacio Piatti

In Piatti’s Absence, Montréal Impact Emerge Successful but Unsatisfying

Eve Powell - Montreal Impact/mlsfemale
Official Montreal Impact Reporter

By Eve // @ejp_nb

Most recent results: 5/18: Montréal Impact v NE Revolution 0-0, 5/11: Montréal Impact v FC Cincinnati 2-1, 4/13: Montréal Impact v Columbus Crew 1-0

It is no secret to anyone who follows MLS. Sure, the coach prepares his tactics and sends out the strongest team at his disposal. Sure, it is an eleven-man team, not a one-man team. But in Montréal, there is one particular player who consistently makes the difference between a loss and a draw, or a draw and a win. That overwhelming influence falls on the shoulders of Ignacio Piatti.

The Impact have been incredibly lucky. In Piatti’s time with the club he has missed remarkably few matches due to injury. However, the 2019 campaign has not been so kind to the player.

Following the third match of the season, when Piatti scored his second and third goals for the team, he was sidelined for a total of ten matches due to injury, and then a setback in his rehabilitation.

For those of us who had followed the team since his 2015 arrival, we began to sing the familiar chorus of “No Piatti, No Party” — losing your leading goalscorer and team MVP for nearly a third of the MLS campaign is bound to hurt anyone, but when a team is so dependent on one player to provide their goals, it hurts even more.

The Impact’s 4-4-2 record in Piatti’s absence came as a surprise to just about everyone on the outside looking in, particularly taking into account that seven of those matches took place on the road. Although coach Rémi Garde and the players have preached a collective effort and mentality, history was not on their side.

During Piatti’s absence, the Impact have both recorded their first-ever MLS regular season win at Red Bull Arena, and have also been humiliated with a 7-1 drubbing in Kansas City. They’ve recorded six shutouts, but have also only scored 9 goals in the aforementioned time period.

In the absence of their primary goalscorer, all eyes have been on the Impact’s more offensive-minded players to see who would pick up Piatti’s torch. Indeed, Omar Browne provided flashes of technique and scored a goal before falling to injury. Anthony Jackson-Hamel got off the mark before de facto starting striker Maxi Urruti. Urruti, remains stuck at one goal on the season, despite notching five assists.

Garde’s former protegé, Harry Novillo, has been a resounding disappointment, while Bologna loanee Orji Okwonkwo has used speed and power to overcome a series of fullbacks on the right wing. Still, all of that potential has by and large fallen short in that crucial moment in front of the goal.

Undoubtedly, the saving grace for the Bleu-Blanc-Noir is the fact that the team has been more defensively sound this season. Although the team has been on the receiving end of several results that are anything but flattering, Evan Bush is already more than halfway toward catching up with his personal best 10 shutouts that were recorded last season.

Again, it feels wrong to complain about a totally respectable record, taking into account how many other players on the team are carrying injuries and not playing at full fitness. Yet somehow, it still doesn’t feel like enough. The Impact’s third place in the Eastern Conference feels far from set in stone, especially with many teams climbing up the rankings with matches in hand.

With Piatti’s return, here’s hoping his presence is the impetus for the Impact to get their scoring mojo back before the mass exodus of players for the impending Gold Cup.

Next match: Friday, May 24th at LAFC.

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Montreal Impact Wraps Up The Road Trip

Official Montreal Impact Reporter

By Eve // @ejp_nb

Finally! The Montréal Impact are preparing for their first home game after six games on the road. Following a 7-1 shellacking at the hands of Sporting Kansas City, fans were eager, if not a little apprehensive, to see how the following matches would go. Would the Impact recover from that humiliation, or had they been shaken too deeply by such an embarrassing defeat?

First on the docket was a trip to Yankee Stadium, to face a faltering NYCFC who were still in search of their first win of the season. With each team missing their most special Argentinian, the fact that the game ended a 0-0 draw was unsurprising. Truly, the match was an overall non-event, as safety on very poor grounds became a bigger concern than the result. Unfortunately for the Impact, forwardMaxi Urruti picked up a red card for a studs-to-shin challenge that was more clumsy than malicious.

This meant that the Bleu-Blanc-Noir were off to Washington, DC on only three days’ rest, short a striker and the player who makes the team tick. Although these were far from ideal circumstances, the fact that Wayne Rooney, who is every bit as important to DC United as Ignacio Piatti is to the Impact, had picked up a red card of his own for Tuesday’s match was a blessing.

With the short turnaround and concerns on the attacking fronts, Rémi Garde opted to give time to the youth players. Mathieu Choinière, Clément Bahiya and Zachary Brault-Guillard all got their first starts with the Bleu-Blanc-Noir. Striker Anthony Jackson-Hamel and Shamit Shome were also given a chance to prove their worth. Including stalwart Samuel Piette, six Canadians featured in the starting eleven.

And the kids did all right. In another match that ended in a 0-0 draw with little to talk about in terms of highlights, there are still quite a few positives that can be retained. First, that our bench might be a little deeper than previously feared. Choinière and Brault-Guillard were undoubtedly the standout performers of the match.

Second, two clean sheets in a row on the back of a heavy loss is an encouraging sign that the defense, and team as a whole, found the stability that had been crucial to a strong end of last season and this pre-season. Finally, the end of this road trip means that the Impact have completed a third of their away matches for the season, and have taken 8 points – a respectable tally to start, and definitely a significant improvement on the 11 road points they earned over the whole of 2018.

At long last, the Impact will return to Stade Saputo to enjoy their first home match of the season on Saturday, April 13th. With Piatti unavailable, and the Eastern Conference top dogs Columbus Crew in town, all eyes will be on who can step up and score a goal to ring that first bell of 2019.

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Montréal Impact Emerge from the Lions’ Den with 3 points

Official Montreal Impact Reporter

By Eve // @ejp_nb

After a thoroughly disappointing defeat to Houston Dynamo, Montréal Impact fans were eager to move forward with the next road match, while still nervous that the team would be too fragile to recover from a loss. However, Orlando City had proven to be a comfortable adversary for the Impact since their entry into MLS, and captain Ignacio Piatti had enjoyed scoring 8 goals against them coming into the match, one of his highest tallies against an individual team.

Although de facto right wing starter Harry Novillo had recovered from a late pre-season injury, Orji Okwonkwo was given the start once again as Novillo was not ready to play a full match, and coach Rémi Garde wanted to allow a stable team to build chemistry and rebound from last week’s loss together.

If stability was what Garde sought, his team didn’t initially demonstrate that quality. The first ten minutes of the match in Orlando were reminiscent of last week’s abysmal showing for the Impact, as the Lions pounced while the visitors struggled to find their bearings in the match. Goalkeeper Evan Bush and Lady Luck worked in tandem to allow the Impact to survive an early wave of pressure unscathed. 

The tide turned in the 14th minute, when Samuel Piette launched a long pass toward Saphir Taïder. The Algerian international penetrated the Orlando defense and drifted to the right of Orlando’s 18-yard box as Okwonkwo used his pace to arrive near the penalty spot, where he latched on to Taïder’s cross and punished Orlando’s defensive lapse with a clinical finish the home team sorely lacked.

The Bleu-Blanc-Noir would go on to double their lead directly after OCSC restarted play. Orlando allowed striker Maxi Urruti’s incessant pressing to pay off as he intercepted a weak back pass from a central defender. Goalkeeper Brian Rowe was left with no choice but to sweep Urruti off his feet – however the forward had already passed to Piatti, who needed no further invitation to find the back of the net.

This one-two punch had clearly taken some wind out of Orlando’s sails, as the Impact would go on to enjoy comfortable periods of possession for large stretches of the game. After Okwonkwo had run himself ragged, Novillo made his Impact début, and quickly offered an assist to Piatti off yet another Orlando defensive error in the 80th minute. With his 10th goal against Orlando, Piatti is now the player who has scored the most goals against the men in purple.

Unfortunately for all involved, the match was poorly officiated by a referee new to the league, who allowed a series of increasingly physical challenges to go unsanctioned. It became clear as the clock wound down that tension levels were rising, and there had been several minor clashes between players over the course of the match. Dom Dwyer, who had scored a late consolation goal for Orlando, is a notorious instigator regardless of his opponent.

After a stoppage in play deep in injury time where Novillo received treatment following another robust tackle, Orlando City received the ball. Rather than respecting fair play and returning the ball to a goalkeeper, Orlando elected to go on the attack. This move was poorly received by the Impact, and led to a mass confrontation at the next stoppage in play. Central defender Zakaria Diallo allowed himself to be baited by Dwyer, and received a red card for shoving him in the head. 

OCSC coach James O’Connor would go on to apologize to the Impact in his post-game press conference, as even he felt his team had conducted themselves poorly when ignoring fair play. All in all though, the whole incident was just a blip on the radar in an otherwise satisfying away win.

This match marks the halfway point of the Impact’s six-game road trip, and it is an uphill battle from here until the home opener. The Impact will have next week off as many players depart to represent their countries, and will subsequently enter Blue Hell as they visit Sporting Kansas City on March 30th

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Montréal Impact Start 2019 Campaign on the Right Foot (or the Left Foot)

Official Montreal Impact Reporter

By Eve // @ejp_nb

Montréal Impact had enjoyed a string of promising pre-season results, going undefeated in all matches with only one goal conceded. However, anyone who has ever watched MLS knows that pre-season performances are not totally indicative of how a team’s competitive campaign will go. Regardless, as the team spent 40 long days toiling under the hot Florida sun to get in game shape and strengthen the chemistry that saw them finish the 2018 season on a strong note, a quiet optimism began to buzz around the IMFC fanbase.

The Impact’s schedule will undoubtedly test their mettle, as they begin with six consecutive road games while waiting for the Canadian winter to end. Last year, their road form was far from sparkling. A mere 11 points picked up in away games does not exactly inspire confidence when a team needs to start the season on a strong note. However, this is Rémi Garde’s second year in charge, there has been less upheaval in the squad than last year, and several interesting players have come in, notably Maxi UrrutiHarry Novillo, and Zakaria Diallo (who was signed for the 2018 season, but did not play due to an ACL injury).

2019’s first official lineup saw Diallo, Urruti, and Bologna loanee Orji Okwonkwo make their débuts for the Bleu-Blanc-Noir. Fans’ confidence in the Impact’s improvements were short-lived, as a disjointed start saw San Jose Earthquakes midfielder Magnus Eriksson open the scoring in the 11th minute after Victor Cabrera mistimed a tackle and left an ocean of space at the top of the 18-yard box. Similar to their 2018 road record, the Impact were a dismal 1-13-2 after conceding the first goal last season, so having to face adversity this early in the season, after having enjoyed a comfortable pre-season was far from an ideal situation.

Thankfully, the goal proved a sufficient wakeup call for the Impact, as they snapped into life. In a feat that has been notoriously rare, team MVP Ignacio Piatti scored on a corner played short, allowing the Argentinian maestro to do what he does best—dribble around defenders to unleash a bullet into the back of the net with his magical left foot.

As halftime neared, the Impact were well in control of the match, often enjoying controlled spells of possession—a clear departure from the “sit deep and absorb pressure” tactic employed last season. Diallo had roamed forward from his central defender position to pick up the ball in San Jose’s half and was given an ocean of space to parade forward and launch a mouth-watering low cross to Saphir Taïder who dropped off the shoulder of his defender to give the Impact the lead. There remains some debate as to whether or not the Algerian was offside at the time of the cross. However, neither the linesman nor VAR signaled, and the goal was good.

The second half saw a return to old tactics, as the Impact bunkered and allowed the Earthquakes to essentially lay siege to their half. Evan Bush was called into action on a few instances, but the defensive line held tight. The match ended 2-1, with the Impact emerging victorious from San Jose, much to the delight of players and fans alike.

There are still 5 road games left before the home opener on April 13th. But, as the Impact opened their season on such a positive note, there is a lot more optimism around this long road trip. Next, the Impact again travel to hostile ground—Houston Dynamo—to play on Saturday, March 9th.

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Impact keep a foot in the playoff race with win over Crew

Eve Powell - Montreal Impact/mlsfemale
Official Montreal Impact Reporter

By Eve // @evejulia9

Saturday, October 6: 3-0 Win

The city of Montréal was rather bereft of hope following the Impact’s humiliating road defeat to hotly pursuing DC United. As the week leading up to the match versus Columbus Crew wore on, and Ignacio Piatti remained absent from training, fans grew increasingly morose at the thought of facing another powerful conference rival without their most crucial player.

As the previous match had been a “must win” for the Impact, and they had quite spectacularly bottled it, it became all the more important to take 3 points from the Crew.

Lo and behold, despite serious injury concerns, Piatti donned the captain’s armband and started the match. However, a sharp increase in his passing rate indicated that he was not at 100% fitness.

Given the massacre the Bleu-Blanc-Noir suffered in their previous match, it was impossible to say if they were going to use that result as fuel to perform, or if the players were still licking their wounds. As Columbus called Evan Bush into action a few times early in the match, optimism was hard to come by.

However, as the Impact began to find their bearings in the game, Alejandro Silva’s cross was deflected off a Crew defender’s arm. Referee Alan Kelly elected to consult VAR and awarded a penalty to the Impact. De facto penalty striker Piatti handed the ball off to Saphir Taïder and the Algerian scored his seventh goal of the season.

Momentum then swung in favour of the Impact, as in the last moments of the first half, Silva channeled his inner Piatti and made light of the 5 defenders surrounding him to finish a brilliant individual effort with his fifth goal of the season.

Columbus undoubtedly saw more of the ball in the second half of the game, and they penetrated Montréal’s defense more than coach Rémi Garde probably liked. However, Bush came up massive every time and equalled a personal record to claim his 9th clean sheet with 9 saves, several of which required great reflexes from the keeper.

To put a cherry on the sundae, Piatti’s dedication to the team despite his injury was rewarded when he scored off a classic counter-attack in the 59th minute to seal the scoreline at 3-0.

For the Impact, a convincing win at home against a very well-coached team of great quality was the perfect response to their humiliation in DC. However, DC United remain a mere 2 points behind the Impact with 2 games in hand, meaning the Impact have to hope that DC drop points in their remaining matches while performing flawlessly themselves.

Their next test will undoubtedly be a difficult one – recently eliminated rivals Toronto FC will be in town on October 21st, and they’ll certainly be keen to spoil Montréal’s playoff hopes.

Featured image: Montréal Impact

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Montréal Impact Fall Short In a Big Match (Yet Again)

Eve Powell - Montreal Impact/mlsfemale
Official Montreal Impact Reporter

By Eve // @evejulia9

Saturday, September 29: 5-0 Loss

Being a fan of the Montréal Impact is like riding a roller coaster. The team can send supporters to the highest peaks of joy and excitement, as evidenced during their 2016 playoff run, but they can also cause fans to plummet into the pits of despair and disappointment, such as with last night’s non-performance against DC United.

The match was billed as “the match of the season” by many, and it was more than just a six-point match with enormous weight in the playoff race. It was an opportunity for the Impact to rise to the occasion and obtain a result in a game of crucial importance.

The humiliating 5-0 scoreline — the worst loss in Montréal’s MLS existence — indicates that once again, the Impact failed to seize their chance to put a nail in DC’s playoff coffin. Instead, the Bleu-Blanc-Noir have likely dug their own grave. Over and over, the defense was carved open like a knife through hot butter, while the visiting offense could only put 4 of their 25(!) shots on target.

As the DC goals racked up, the Impact players looked more defeated and downright disinterested in the match. Coach Rémi Garde seemed to know the match was lost, as team talisman Ignacio Piatti — whose night was truly disastrous — was substituted off for youngster Mathieu Choinière. At the end, many viewers of the match felt like they had lost two hours of their lives that they’d never get back.

To make matters more disturbing, this is not the first time in Impact history – or this season – that the Montréalais have failed to “show up” for an important match. We can recently look back to the 3-1 defeat to bitter rivals Toronto FC in late August, where the tactics were also somewhat to blame. I am inclined to also cite the 1-0 loss to a ten-man LA Galaxy back in May, which was the Impact’s first sell-out of the season and a great occasion to win over new fans.

It would be cruel to ignore the tremendous improvements that the Bleu-Blanc-Noir have experienced under Garde and his coaching staff. Piatti has become more generous with the ball, Evan Bush has set a personal record with 117 saves this season and, generally speaking, the defense is significantly more organized than in previous seasons.

It would be equally unfair to forget that the Impact began the season in a bind, with the early loss of defender Zakaria Diallo, meaning they used an international spot and a hefty portion of the salary budget for his substitute Rod Fanni. As well, interesting and dynamic as he has been, Quincy Amarikwa was a last-minute addition to the squad after French striker Jimmy Briand backed out at the last second.

Regardless of the changes in personnel, the team has remained in the playoff picture for many weeks, yet this most recent disastrous performance shows that the spectre of the big-game mentality continues to haunt the Impact.

Is this problem something a manager can take charge of, or does it require the more specialized touch of a sports psychologist? As different managers have come and gone, and the Impact have continued to let huge results slip from their grasp, the answer seems to lie beyond the man at the helm of the ship.

With their playoff fate now well and truly out of their hands, it is time to see what mettle the Impact have within to end their season, starting when they host Columbus Crew next Sunday.

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The rivalry match that wasn’t for IMFC

Eve Powell - Montreal Impact/mlsfemale
Official Montreal Impact Reporter

By Eve // @evejulia9

Saturday, August 25: 3-1 Loss

At long last, Rivalry Week was upon us. This is a time Montréal Impact fans and Toronto FC fans alike look to on the calendar upon its release, because the feeling is fierce. Beyond the two clubs, beyond sport as a whole, a cultural rivalry between Montréal and Toronto has simmered for countless years. To say that rivalry matches are special ones is an enormous understatement.

As Toronto spent a large part of the season on their heels, with the Impact the higher-placed team in the Eastern Conference, fans looked toward the road match with particular delight. BMO Field is notably hostile to Montréal, with the Impact having won there only twice, but what better time was there to put a nail in the coffin of a rival’s playoff hopes?

On Saturday, Rémi Garde presented his lineup an hour before the match, and it was a baffling one. Ignacio Piatti was placed as the central striker, with Saphir Taïder shifting from central midfield to the left wing of the typical 4-3-3. I stared stupefied at such a lineup wondering if Garde was a genius or a madman. Our two Designated Players were moved out of position, and the weakened midfield core would have a Herculean task ahead of them to try and dictate play.

The fact that the lineup did not work was evident from the start. TFC’s 4-4-2 diamond populated the midfield, and it was too much for Piette, Azira and Krolicki to gain any control over play. The Impact were clearly out-of-sync, and lingered too long in making crucial decisions which led to turnovers. Their lethargic start – yet another one! – was punished by 3 TFC goals within 30 minutes of play. It was as though any play a Bleu-Blanc-Noir player attempted was the wrong one.

Shortly after the home team took a 3-0 lead, Alejandro Silva scored a wonderful counterattack goal to light a glimmer of hope that Montréal could find a way back into the match. The end of the first half would see the Impact hit the woodwork on a free kick, and have two goals disallowed for offside.

Quincy Amarikwa came on for the thoroughly overwhelmed Ken Krolicki at the start of the second half, allowing Taïder to move into a more effective role, and the Impact laid siege to the Toronto half of the field for the final 45 minutes. However, no Impact player was able to make the difference. A succession of corner kicks went unclaimed, and for the goals that needed to be scored, disturbingly few balls entered the 18-yard box, as players elected to dither around the edges until they turned over possession.

In the wake of the defeat, blame is being thrown around all over the place. Piatti had a truly disastrous evening, one of his worst in recent memory – how did he remain out there for 90 minutes? The Impact players were incredibly slow and made poor decision after poor decision – what was going through their heads? Once again, the Impact’s lack of a proper striker was glaringly obvious – how did the ball get dropped on such a crucial role to fill during the transfer window?

This match was of enormous importance, both for team pride and in the playoff race – why did Garde choose such a match to experiment with his lineup? We likely won’t get answers to many of these questions, certainly none that will satisfy Impact fans.

The Impact’s fate is essentially out of their hands now, even though they are 4 points clear of the playoff line. The teams chasing them all have at least two games in hand, as do fifth-placed Philadelphia. The Impact now have to contend with a venerable New York Red Bulls side next Saturday, who will have even less mercy for an ill-prepared team with a shaky mentality.

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