Last-place Impact look to Piatti boost to end losing streak against Chicago
Friday, Aug 15, 2014 01:00 pm
MONTREAL - It will likely take more than a player in his first Major League Soccer match to shake the Montreal Impact out of their losing habit.
Midfielder Ignacio Piatti, who arrived this week as a designated player, is expected to see action either as a starter or a substitute when the Impact play host to the Chicago Fire on Saturday night.
The 29-year-old Argentine joined a team that is last in MLS at 3-14-5 and has lost seven league games in a row since a 3-0 win over Houston on June 29.
Piatti is an attacking midfielder who plays mostly on the left side, where Impact coach Frank Klopas hopes he will help feed strikers Marco Di Vaio and Jack McInerney and score a few goals himself over the last 12 games of the regular season and in the CONCACAF Champions League.
"We're not only getting a very talented player on the field, but a player of great character," said Klopas. "We're all excited.
"But it's not just about one player. Everyone else around him has to step up and contribute to the team effort."
He hopes Piatti, who signed for three and a half years, gives a jolt to a last-place team that is 13 points out of a playoff spot but still hopes for a strong finish to the campaign, if only to build momentum for next season.
"It's important for us just to get a win, any way we get it," added Klopas. "You look at the last six or seven games, if you take (a 2-0 loss to Toronto) out of the equation, all the other games we should have walked away with points.
"It's just about getting back on track. Any way we can get a result that can change the way we're feeling now is a good thing."
The club also has hopes pinned on a long run in the Champions League. It won its opener 1-0 over CD FAS last week and plays a return match in El Salvador on Wednesday.
The Impact did not react well to the last shakeup, when Nick De Santis was removed as sporting director and Klopas was given full power over personnel decisions. Their next match was on Aug. 2 against Toronto FC, and the players responded with perhaps their most lethargic effort of the season.
Perhaps it will be different with a new player, who seemed to make a favourable impression on his teammates at his first practice with the Impact on Wednesday.
Hassoun Camara, who returns from a one-game suspension for yellow card accumulation, said the team can't expect miracles from Piatti right away.
"We are just happy to have another player of good quality on the club," the French fullback said. "But we don't have to put pressure on him and say, 'Now he's going to save us.'
"He's a good player and it's good for us because we have players like Marco, (Andres) Romero and Justin Mapp. To me, it's one of the best attacks in the league. Now we're just showing our difficulties, but if we play with intensity and work together we can be a very good team."
There will be no better chance to grab a home victory than against Chicago, where Klopas coached before joining the Impact last winter.
Chicago (4-8-13) is unbeaten in its last three league games, including a 1-0 win a week ago at home against New York. But it is coming off a 6-0 loss at Seattle in the semifinals of the U.S. Open Cup that was so horrific it moved coach Frank Yallop to apologize to the Fire's fans.
Montreal drew 1-1 with Chicago in April, and are 1-0-2 at home against the Fire over three MLS seasons.
It will also be midfielder Dilly Duka's first game against his former team since his trade to Montreal on July 29.
"I look forward to any game," said Duka. "I take it as if we were playing any Eastern Conference team. We need a result."
The Fire had a new coach and a lot of turnover on its roster this year, but has managed to stay in playoff contention by pulling out draws in the same sort of matches that the Impact has found ways to lose. Chicago is only two points back of Philadelphia for the fifth and final playoff spot in the east.
But Yallop's side, led by ace striker Mike Magee, needs to start winning league games soon.
"It's where we're at," Yallop said this week on the team's website. "We have a great result at home against New York and our next game, we get beat 6-0.
"Inconsistent would be the word I'd use. We have to put it behind us and pick ourselves up quickly. The Open Cup is gone, but we're in decent position to make the playoffs. We must focus on that."
Notes: The Fire have scored only one or fewer goals in their last eight games, but the Impact have conceded 15 in their last seven matches. ... Montreal's last two goals were scored by midfielder Maxim Tissot of Gatineau, Que. ... The Impact hope to avoid matching their record of eight MLS games without a win set at the end of last season and the start of the 2014 campaign. ... Yallop, who grew up in Vancouver, is 0-1-2 in his coaching career against Montreal.