Montreal Impact season preview: Urruti hoping to ‘win titles’ with Piatti

Craig Forrest and James Sharman take a look at the Canadian squads heading into the latest MLS campaign.

Leaving FC Dallas was tough for Maximiliano Urruti.

Having been traded to the Montreal Impact during the off-season, it meant another fresh start for the Argentine forward.

Coming to terms with the trade was initially difficult for Urruti, and for good reason.

“The truth is that it was a sudden exit and I did not have time to say goodbye,” Urruti told Sportsnet ahead of Montreal’s 2019 MLS season opener on Saturday away to the San Jose Earthquakes.

“So it was very hard because I achieved things at [FC Dallas] that made me, the fans and my family feel good in Dallas. But now I am focused on Montreal.”

Nearly three months later, Urruti is more comfortable in his new surroundings. There are Spanish-speaking players on the Impact – including countryman Ignacio Piatti – and that’s helped the 28-year-old quickly adapt to his new surroundings.

“This is very important to me,” Urruti explained. “[Piatti] is an excellent person and that’s fundamental when I train with him, and also, you learn a lot from his quality as a great player and as a great individual. We hope that we can have great chemistry on the field and win some titles.

“We spend the day together, we drink maté and I try to get to know him better, and him to me, so we can have good chemistry. That is important. I already feel that we are good friends both on and off the pitch.”

Acquiring a proven No. 9 was a top priority for the Impact. All of Montreal’s strikers combined for seven goals last season, which is a paltry output for any team with playoff aspirations.

Urruti contributed eight goals in 2018, a slight decline compared to 2017, but he made up for it with 11 assists. That awareness and playmaking ability should benefit Montreal coach Remi Garde, who will want his striker to be involved in every facet of the attack.

When comparing Urruti’s underlying numbers to other MLS forwards over the past two seasons, it’s no surprise that the Impact signed the 28-year-old to a new and improved deal.

Urruti must’ve won over the Impact coaching staff, otherwise he wouldn’t have put pen to paper on a new contract. But he knows that he can’t take his place for granted.

“I think that it doesn’t really come down to a single player but to the whole group and team as a whole,” Urruti said. “I have to be in great shape to play, and by doing so, I think that it will make the difference for us as a team. I have to keep focused on that at all times.”

This will be Garde’s second season with the Impact. A sluggish start to 2018 had the former Arsenal midfielder feeling the heat until Montreal’s form surged after the World Cup break.

It’s clear that Garde has the full respect from his players, especially after the Impact’s second-half improvement. Even Urruti took note of the coaching staff’s qualities in his first few training sessions with his new team.

“Truthfully, they’re very good coaches,” Urruti explained. “They train us very hard. It’s a long season, so it is important to focus on the methods of play that [Garde] is trying to implement on the pitch. And I hope I can adapt to it soon.

“I think [Garde] is a very smart coach, too, who shows day-to-day that he is focused on his training sessions. For me, what is important is that he knows how to treat the players well and that is vital.”

The Impact’s season will be defined by the attack. Urruti struggled at the start of the 2018 season because he had to drop deep to collect the ball. With Saphir Taider in Montreal’s midfield, this shouldn’t be an issue. In turn, this will allow Urruti to stretch the defence, execute darting runs into the box and combine with Piatti up front.

The partnership between Urruti and Piatti is one of the burning questions for the Impact entering this new season. If they develop strong chemistry from the outset, then it’s highly likely that Montreal will return to the playoffs in 2019. But Urruti is hopeful that he can deliver more than just a post-season appearance.

“Honestly, I see that Montreal is a big club,” Urruti said. “My teammates greeted me in the best way and for me, that’s very important and it made me feel special. Not to mention I’m coming to a beautiful city and I’m hoping that I’m going to get adapted soon and that I can give the fans joy.”

The fans are probably hopeful of the same result.

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