MLS takeaways: Piatti excels for Impact in win over TFC

Toronto FC's Eriq Zavaleta (15) and Montreal Impact midfielder Ignacio Piatti (10) go after the ball. )Ryan Remiorz/CP)

Toronto FC 0, Montreal Impact 1 (Vargas 41’)

GAME RECAP IN A SENTENCE

Jeisson Vargas’s fortuitous goal on a lovely setup from Ignacio Piatti was the difference for Montreal, who earned its first win of the season in its home opener, and left Toronto still searching for its first victory of the campaign.

MAIN TALKING POINTS

1. Ignacio Piatti the difference for Montreal
Not for the first time during his MLS tenure, Ignacio Piatti put in a man-of-the match effort for the Impact. Deployed as a “false nine” by coach Remi Garde, Piatti helped Montreal clog the midfield and was dogged in his defensive duties, making it difficult for TFC to attack and penetrate through the middle.

He overcame a slow start to match, where he seemed to struggle with the turf and made some poor final decisions in front of goal, to exert his influence over the proceedings, and it was his hard work that led to the winner from Vargas. After Samuel Piette forced a turnover by Toronto captain Michael Bradley, the ball found its way to the feet of Piatti, who ran directly at TFC defenders, before laying it off for Vargas, whose shot took a deflection off Nick Hagglund and past goalkeeper Alex Bono.

2. Lots of possession for TFC, but not much purpose
The Reds finished with close to 63 per cent of the ball on the day, but it only led to three shots on target, and genuine scoring chances were few and far between – Montreal ‘keeper Evan Bush came up big in the 33rd minute to tip Sebastian Giovinco’s dangerous, dipping effort from 25 yards out around the far post. Toronto was composed and controlled when they had the ball; what was missing was urgency and pace, especially in transition. A counter-attacking side such as the Impact was only too happy to watch TFC dictate the pace of the match, but not force the issue in the final third of the pitch.

3. Rod Fanni solid in his MLS debut
Rod Fanni, signed only earlier this month after the long-term injury suffered by Zakaria Diallo, didn’t put a foot wrong in his MLS debut. The 36-year-old veteran centre back hardly looked his age, comfortably dealing with Jozy Altidore and Sebastian Giovinco in and around the Impact’s penalty box. Whether it was snuffing out danger or carrying the ball out from the back, the Frenchman was a calming and reassuring presence in a Montreal back line that leaked five goals through the first two games on the season.

KEY MOMENT

84’ CLEARANCE! Toronto FC 0, Montreal Impact 1: Down a goal late in the game, TFC poured on the pressure in search for an equalizer, and had the Impact pinned inside their half. Substitute Marky Delgado played a smart pass for Jozy Altidore who fired on net from in close, only to see Montreal goalkeeper Evan Bush block it. But he only managed to get a piece of it, and the ball continued to roll towards goal. Montreal’s Michael Petrasso was alert, though, as he beat TFC’s Nicolas Hasler to the ball and made a crucial goal-line clearance. Hasler had positioning on the play and looked sure to knock it in, but Petrasso did well to get there first and help preserve the Impact’s win.

BURNING QUESTION

When will MLS call time on allowing Montreal to use the Big O?
It’s a shame that a match of this magnitude between two great rivals had to be played at the Big O, on that terrible artificial surface. Both teams were adversely affected by the bounces on the turf on Saturday, making it difficult for outfield players to weigh their passes. Goalkeepers Alex Bono and Evan Bush also hesitated at times, unsure as to how a long ball played into their boxes would come up off the turf. While the surface didn’t affect the entertainment value, it did affect the quality of the spectacle on display. The Impact either have to put down a better artificial surface or a grass pitch at the Big O, or figure out a way to play games at Stade Saputo in March. Enough is enough.

QUICK TAKE

As someone who covers TFC, I count myself very lucky to be able to watch Sebastian Giovinco on a regular basis. He’s been one of the best players – if not THE best player – in the league since arriving in Toronto in 2015. But if I could only watch one star in MLS, it might be Montreal’s Ignacio Piatti. The Argentine is such a fun player to watch, with his deft skill on the ball something to behold, and his ability to take over games often breathtaking. It was a slow start for Piatti on Saturday, but he quickly settled down, and began to effectively linking up with Jeisson Vargas, and gave Toronto all sorts of problems with his probing, attacking runs from deep positions. There are few genuine difference makers in MLS. Piatti is one of them.

INTERESTING STAT

TFC continues to struggle for results in MLS right after playing in the CONCACAF Champions League:

MAN OF THE MATCH

Ignacio Piatti, Montreal Impact: Jeisson Vargas scored the lone goal, but it was Piatti who drove Montreal’s attack with his runs from deep in midfield. The Argentine also routinely sliced open Toronto’s back line with his distribution, playing teammates into dangerous scoring positions. And it was his industrious work just before the half time break that set up Vargas’ goal.

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