Montreal Impact playmaker Ignacio Piatti returns to training, but availability still in question

Ignacio Piatti closeup, Montreal Impact

MONTREAL – The Impact could soon field their full slate of Designated Players again.

After 10 days in his native Argentina, Ignacio Piatti returned to Montreal early 1040712640" tabindex="0">on Monday morning, looking to re-join Didier Drogba in the Montreal Impact attack. Piatti had traveled to Argentina before Montreal’s 2-1 win over Chicago on Sep. 23, upon hearing of a grave illness to his father – whose health has since improved.

So Piatti has returned to training. While he did start the 1040712641" tabindex="0">Monday session with the group, Piatti also did some fitness work on his own. Piatti chose not to speak to the media, but interim head coach Mauro Biello told reporters that the player needed to get another training session under his belt before even entertaining the possibility of a start against the New York Red Bulls this Wednesday at Red Bull Arena (7:30 pm ET; MLS LIVE).

“He’s an important player, a guy you always want to be available,” Biello said. “But we have to understand what he went through in the last few days and where he is on a physical level, when you don’t train for 10 days. We have to see him in training again, see how he feels, before we make a decision.”

Piatti returning to the field, even as a substitute, would certainly buoy an Impact team that lacked punch in the final third last Saturday in a 2-1 loss at Orlando City. With eight goals and six assists in 23 games this season, Piatti has showcased his ability to get past opponents, open space and unstabilize defenses.

Montreal will need these tools even more considering that they once again have to deal with national team duty. At Red Bull Arena they will be without several first-teamers, among them another creative spark, Johan Venegas (Costa Rica). Maxime Crépeau, Jérémy Gagnon-Laparé, Anthony Jackson-Hamel (Canada U-23s), Wandrille Lefèvre, Kyle Bekker and Maxim Tissot (Canada) are also unavailable – Ambroise Oyongo will join up with the Cameroon national team after Wednesday.

“We’re going to miss players, but we’ve counted on our roster all season long, even more so these last few weeks,” team captain Patrice Bernier said. “Everyone’s responded, and we have to keep going like that. The key elements, the core of the team’s here. The others have to seize their opportunity.”

In Piatti’s absence, and with fixtures piling up, Biello tinkered with his lineup and formation, switching to a version of 4-3-3 on a couple of occasions. Piatti, since signing with Montreal in the summer of 2014, has played a central role close to the nominal lone striker.

But Piatti does have a background as a wide midfielder. As a left winger, Piatti was a key contributor to San Lorenzo’s triumph in the 2014 Copa Libertadores. Biello has ruled no option out.

“Nacho can play several roles, in the formation we played last weekend or in other formations where he can play on the sides,” Biello said. “We’ll see who’s available and how the players’ characteristics match up in order to help the team. Nacho’s an attacking player with a lot of qualities, who can unsettle an opponent. Having him on the field, no matter the formation, will help the team.”