With acres of space in front of him, Ignacio Piatti had two choices. He could either dribble in alone and shoot, or lay it across for teammate Alejandro Silva.
Piatti opted for the latter, helping Silva complete his brace in a 4-1 victory for the Montreal Impact over the Philadelphia Union.
Usually not afraid to shoot on net, Piatti played provider on that triumphant night on Sept. 15. Both of Silva’s strikes were assisted by his fellow South American teammate, once again displaying the killer instinct in the final third.
“Whether it’s on the left or right wing, we always find each other,” Piatti told Sportsnet. “We also help defend whenever the team needs us. [Silva] has great speed from back to front, too.”
— Major League Soccer (@MLS) September 16, 2018
Being in MLS for four years, Piatti is settled into life in Montreal. He speaks French, enjoys the city and gets along with his teammates, especially with the other South Americans in the squad, which helped Silva quickly adapt after he arrived from Argentinean side Lanús.
“When Ale first arrived, he was a good reinforcement for the team,” Piatti explained. “He really adapted well when he first arrived. Some of the teammates speak the same language, like myself, [Victor] Cabrera, [Matteo] Mancosu, and [Jeisson] Vargas helps as well in case he doesn’t understand something, so I believe he’s adapted well.”
Like Silva, Piatti left his club, San Lorenzo, in search of a new opportunity and a better life. Despite winning Copa Libertadores, the ultimate club prize in South America, the 33-year-old knew that moving to Montreal was a chance he couldn’t pass up, and he believes other South Americans are following a similar path to Major League Soccer.
“There are many South American players that want to come to this league,” Piatti said. “This league is growing a lot. It’s very nice to play here. It’s a nice lifestyle and there’s a soccer culture here. Very different than South America.”
While several Argentine and Brazilian teams are the most valuable clubs in the Americas, the domestic leagues are often plagued by disorganization and confusion. Even South America’s organizing body, CONMEBOL, commit some egregious errors.
“[MLS] is very calm, the football [schedule] is organized,” Piatti admitted. “You know when is the first and last game of the season. In South America, the schedule is not fixed. You don’t know what time or day you play. It changes all the time. Sometimes you think you’re playing Saturday or Sunday and you end up playing on a Wednesday.
“MLS has great organization and it has grown tremendously in the last year and that’s one of the reasons why so many young South Americans want to establish a career in this part of the world.”
Not only are there issues with scheduling, there are also crowd problems which can lead to an unsafe atmosphere. In Peru, two of the country’s marquee clubs in Alianza Lima and Sporting Cristal had to suspend their Sept. 16 match after clashes between rival fans and gun shots just outside the stadium rendered the situation as dangerous. That is definitely not the case in MLS, which is appealing to many South American players.
Thanks in large part to Piatti’s play this season, the Impact are still in the playoff race with two games remaining, although a 5-0 loss to D.C. United on Sept. 29 was a brutal setback.
It’s a far cry compared to the 2017 campaign, which led to Mauro Biello losing his job as coach. Former Arsenal and Lyon great Remi Garde was hired as his replacement, and he’s reinvigorated the Impact in a few short months.
“All of them are very good coaches,” Piatti offered. “When they first arrived here, it was difficult to adapt, [there were] new players … Now that time has passed, we understand each other and we see the results on the pitch. So we are very happy with [Garde], and I believe the club is as well. I hope that we can make the playoffs so that we can continue on this great path.”
Undergoing the sort of off-season overhaul that the Impact experienced usually leads to a slow start to the following campaign. Montreal only won three of its first 13 matches, earning just nine points in that span.
Eventually, the Impact turned a corner. Since June 2, they’ve picked up an impressive 37 points. Piatti explained that a few of Garde’s tweaks have made the difference during this 19-match run.
“He puts a lot of emphasis on tactics,” Piatti explained. “He’s very organized, makes sure that we don’t concede goals, and we work very hard on this during the season. He has a physical trainer who makes us run a lot.
“Now we feel the difference when we are on the pitch. During the season, we also worked a lot on closing the spaces and ensured that the opposition is pushed to the flanks. [When] we follow his instructions, everything goes well during the game.”
This was supposed to be a transitional year for the Impact, so their 2018 season was practically impossible to predict. Whether or not Montreal qualifies for the post-season, they seem to be in good hands under this coaching staff.