With Drogba out, Matteo Mancosu writes his own legend for Montreal Impact

MONTREAL – Matteo Mancosu is no legend, yet the previously little-known Italian striker is making a name for himself with the Montreal Impact and producing invaluable offense now that he, rather than Didier Drogba, is teaming up with potential MLS MVP Ignacio Piatti.

Mancosu, who joined Montreal on a one-year loan from Italian club Bologna in July, came up clutch once again with the decisive goal in the Impact's 1-0 win in the first leg of their Eastern Conference Semifinal against the New York Red Bulls.

After netting two in Montreal's 4-2 win against D.C. United in the Knockout Round on Thursday, the 31-year-old Italian netted a spectacular goal against New York to give his team a slight edge heading into next Sunday's second leg at Red Bull Arena.

As Marco Donadel played a chipped ball over the top, Mancosu – who had three goals and four assists in 772 regular-season minutes – separated from New York's center backs and allowed the ball to drop in before striking a half-volley over goalkeeper Luis Robles for the winning tally.

"I think Matteo scored an excellent goal," Impact coach Mauro Biello said. "It was stunning how he took in that ball, a nice ball by Donadel. We surprised their defense with a volley like that, and it was a big goal on his part. Listen, he's a guy who has played at the highest level, someone who works very hard and he was capable of getting that deep ball. So for us, he has done very well in every game he has played."

Mancosu nearly clicked with Piatti late in the first half, as well. His header rolled wide of the left post 44 minutes in after Piatti put his shoulder into defender Chris Duvall to win a ball near the left corner flag before setting up Mancosu with a cross from the edge of the 18-yard box.

"We're showing that we can play [in these playoffs] even though they were calling us the underdogs," Mancosu said. "Now we're showing that we're on the same level as the others. So we're very happy and it's a great emotion. And then the public was so involved. Their affection was felt. They cheered us on all game and we owed them this win."

Drogba has yet to play in the playoffs because of back issues.

The Chelsea and Ivory Coast legend has not been in the Impact's starting XI since a 1-0 loss at the New York Red Bulls on Sept. 24. Four days later in his most recent appearance, Drogba came off the bench for the final 20 minutes of a 3-1 win against the San Jose Earthquake at Stade Saputo.

After losing his starting job to Mancosu, he refused to be in Montreal's 18-man lineup for a 2-2 tie against Toronto FC on Oct. 16.