MONTREAL – Samuel Piette is uniquely positioned to give the Montreal Impact a successor to fellow midfielder Patrice Bernier as a hometown anchor in their starting lineup.
Piette, who transferred from Spanish side CD Izarra and signed with the Impact on Aug. 3, made his fourth straight start for his hometown team Sunday. The 22-year-old has given Montreal a boost since his arrival, playing well in the Impact’s central midfield and helping the club move up the Eastern Conference table.
"It's something special obviously because I'm from here," the 22-year-old Canadian international said following Montreal's 3-1 loss to Toronto FC on Sunday. "You know, playing here, it's good to have the support from my family, my friends that could come out to see me play. They know I'm a good footballer, but they've never seen me play. And this is the team that I always dreamed to play for because this is the team I was watching growing up, so it's something special to have the chance to play for Montreal."
The loss was Piette's first with the Impact, who have climbed up from the depths of the East table this month to put themselves into contention for a playoff spot. Piette, who has 35 caps and starred for Canada in the Gold Cup earlier this summer, was impressed with his initiation to the 401 Derby.
"I think it's a very good rivalry," Piette said. "We could see it on our pitch, it's really intense. When there are some fouls people gather together to argue and stuff. The difference between us and them, Toronto's more a team that likes to keep the ball possession-wise … from the back, and we're more of a counter-attacking team because we have a lot of speed and skills on the wing going forward. But it was intense and I really enjoyed it, especially with the sold-out crowd today."
Impact goalkeeper Evan Bush says Piette's qualities help midfielders Ignacio Piatti and Blerim Dzemaili and striker Matteo Mancosu go forward with a bit more peace of mind.
"With him, you know, he keeps the ball, doesn't get us stretched because of that,” Bush said. “If we're just hitting the ball long and trying to find Nacho [Piatti] and Dzemaili, Mancosu and those guys up top, then you get stretched pretty quickly, and he doesn't do that. He's very calm with the ball.”
Bernier knows what it’s like to come home from Europe to play in Montreal. The veteran midfielder pulled that trick in 2012 to join the Impact for their inaugural MLS campaign, and has been a huge presence in the Montreal midfield during his five-plus years with the Impact in MLS.
Bernier, who will turn 38 next month, announced that he’ll retire after the season. In Piette, he’s sees a player who can not only help the Impact on the field, but carry the flame for the club as a Quebec native.
“The last few years you always ask yourself, 'Who's the next kid from here that's going to be able to play and be, you can't say the soul of the team, but be a prominent 11 starter?’” Bernier said. “He came in and he showed that he's not flustered by playing at maybe a high level of what MLS is, and it's nice to know that there's a guy that can say that he carries the torch, he keeps the torch alive. So the flame started in 2012 and now there's somebody else who's carrying it and can carry it even longer."