His MLS debut done, Blerim Dzemaili shows he's still in stride from Serie A

Blerim Dzemaili and Ignacio Piatti, Montreal Impact, celebrate a goal

MONTREAL – Blerim Dzemaili has already proven himself a quick study in MLS. Now, his coach is expecting even better things from the Montreal Impact's newest signing.

"I think it's normal his first game to find rhythm, you know, understanding his teammates," Impact coach Mauro Biello said after Dzemaili started and showed well in Saturday's 3-2 home loss to Columbus Crew SC, just three days after his first practice in North America.

"We felt that it was important for him to start," Biello added. "He's physically fit so the more time he would get with the group, the quicker the adaptation. You know, you see it's a guy that needs the ball and can make plays. Now we just have to be able to find him so he could express himself and engage the others."

Dzemaili, 31, joined Montreal on loan from Bologna of Italy's Serie A, which is also owned by Impact owner Joey Saputo. When he landed in Montreal on Tuesday, Dzemaili – who occupies a Designated Player spot on the Impact's roster – said he was ready to win.

On Saturday, The Swiss midfielder's free kick set up Anthony Jackson-Hamel's tying goal in the 77th minute as Montreal scored twice in the second half to erase a 2-0 deficit, only to see Columbus take all three points when Justin Meram completed his first career hat trick in stoppage time. 

"Of course we need to be better in the defense," Dzemaili said. "We need to stabilize the defense a little bit better, but that will happen because it was just my first game and I think that we can improve a lot. But we have to work a lot like Columbus did the first half."

A box-to-box player, Dzemaili was encouraged by Montreal's response to the early adversity. But he also noted that the Impact's push for the winning goal once they tied the game at 2-2 left them vulnerable on Meram's third goal.

"I think what made the difference was our mentality in the second half," Dzemaili said. "We went out to get back in the game. I think we had a lot of chances to score (to make it) 3-2, but we have to improve from that last minute because sometimes even a point is better than losing."

Still, Dzemaili impressed on his MLS debut.

"I thought he did well," Montreal goalkeeper Evan Bush said. "He played in some great balls, he had an engine on him, but at the end of the day when you're chasing a game for whenever they scored that second goal for the rest of the game, guys tire out and it's only normal. It was kind of unfortunate how we gave up the third goal, but that's kind of a by-product of having to chase a game for that long too."