Blerim Dzemaili-Ignacio Piatti partnership blooming for Montreal

ORLANDO, Fla. – Blerim Dzemaili has only made four starts since joining Montreal from Bologna in May, but he’s already struck up quite the partnership with Ignacio Piatti.

The attack-minded pair played a starring role in the Impact’s 3-3 draw at Orlando City SC on Saturday, combining for all three of their team’s goals and each adding one assist.

In their four games together, Dzemaili and Piatti have linked up for seven goals and four assists, and Montreal has gone 2-1-1. It’s a pace that goalkeeper Evan Bush doesn’t see slowing down anytime soon.

“They have loads of quality, those two,” Bush said after Saturday’s match. “They’re competitors and if you get them in space and time on the ball, they can hurt you. They were able to do that especially in the second half. I think that three to four-minute span where we had back-to-back goals was basically those top three guys just pressing a little bit higher and winning balls and getting at them.

“That’s something we can be pretty good at. They did their part tonight. It’s unfortunate we couldn’t close it out at the end there.”

Dzemaili was a largely unknown quantity to MLS fans when he arrived in Montreal from Italy, but he’s quickly adapted to Mauro Biello’s counterattacking setup, and showed no ill effects after returning from international duty with Switzerland in the Faroe Islands last week.

His burgeoning partnership with Piatti also picked up against Orlando exactly where it left off against New York Red Bulls on June 3. Piatti setup Dzemaili for the Impact’s initial equalizer in the 16th, then the Swiss ace returned the favor when Piatti made it 2-2 in the 58th. The Argentine added a second to give Montreal a 3-2 lead a minute later before the Impact were caught out by Jonathan Spector’s 94th minute equalizer.

Bush saw enough to believe there is a lot more to come from the deadly duo in 2017.

“Since they have so much quality, they can pretty much step in anywhere and kind of gel with [other] guys with a lot of quality as well,” he said. “It’s happened quickly and I think the more they play together, the more comfortable they’re going to get.”

Biello again on Saturday rolled out his 5-3-2 formation that proved successful in Montreal’s recent 1-1 draw at Sporting Kansas City and, while it was only a qualified success at Orlando – the Impact were outshot 14-2 in a one-sided first half – Bush still believes it is a valuable scheme to have up their sleeve.

“We’re still working through it,” he observed. “We played it last week, but a lot of guys were gone. This week was our first time with most of those guys back. The first half was kind of ugly with the way we were playing. Then we made a little tactical switch in the second half, and it got better for sure.

“Once again, we were without [Chris] Duvall, who is going to be a pretty big part of this team. Hassoun [Camara] and Daniel Lovitz played very well. But at the same time, we need to finish out the game. When we have five guys on defense, you should be able to close down with a one goal lead. But I think the system is a good thing to have in our arsenal.”