Following yet another loss, 1-0 to a 10-man Galaxy side that hadn’t picked up a point in more than a month, the Montreal Impact are now saddled with MLS’s worst points-per-game pace (.75) and goal differential (-13). It’s bad in Quebec.
And when it gets that bad, change is coming. In Montreal’s case, the kind of change that could lead to what would almost certainly be the biggest trade in MLS history.
You better believe every technical director, general manager and head coach in Major League Soccer took note of owner Joey Saputo’s frustration-laden comments on Monday.
“I don’t want to start any rumors. For me, personally, like I’ve always said, today, in our current group, there is not one untouchable player.” Saputo said in an interview with Jeremy Filosa of local outlet 98.5 Sports after Monday’s loss (interview in French). “I may be speaking a little in the heat of the moment, but, seriously speaking, if someone comes to get [Ignacio] Piatti and offers me X amount for him, I save on the salary cap and I make money.”
“Are we better off having three players at two million apiece instead of one player at six million? I don’t know. Anyways, personally, I’m not happy with our current situation and I’m not an owner who will say, 'We’ll finish this year and then make decisions.' We have time to do that now.”
That sound you hear is Impact vice president Nick De Santis and technical director Adam Braz’s phones ringing off the hook.
None of this is Piatti’s fault, of course.
The 33-year-old is having his best season yet in MLS, on pace for a double-double season after back-to-back years of 17 goals and six assists. The Argentine signed a two-year extension with a club option for a third year last September that makes him one of the highest-paid players in MLS, according the player’s union.
Montreal could sell him, of course, but Piatti isn’t leaving any money on the table after inking his big extension last fall and any club that comes in for him would have to spend big on fee and salary for a 33-year-old. All that for Montreal to get a partial cut of the fee.
That makes a trade within MLS more likely than a sale outside the league. In MLS, he’s a known quantity, a quick-fix player who could elevate a team for mediocre to good or good to great.
So who might be calling Montreal ahead of the summer window opening on July 10? You can start with these clubs.
There was a whole lot of smoke around Chicago in the winter, but no … fire. All those reports and rumors never materialized into the sort of attacking acquisition the club desperately needed after trading David Accam to the Philadelphia Union for a boatload of allocation money at the SuperDraft.
Why not send that bundle of money (and probably more) to the Impact for the sort of game-changer that could elevate a scuffling squad to the heights of a year ago?
Bastian Schweinsteiger’s contract is up at the end of the season. Dax McCarty is still elite, but he’s not getting younger. Same for Nemanja Nikolic, who is more than capable of winning another Golden Boot. Point being, this group’s window won’t be open forever. Add Piatti to the mix – and get the backline healthy – and they’re Eastern Conference contenders again, only with a higher ceiling than 2017.
Piatti is pricey, but the Fire are already spending big on Schweinsteiger and his contract isn’t a long-term albatross. Chicago need a splash this summer. This would be the equivalent of a cannonball for general manger Nelson Rodriguez.
First things first, this would require some big changes for Atlanta. They’d need to clear a Designated Player slot for Piatti. This is pure speculation, but let’s say Miguel Almiron gets sold for eight figures this summer. That would 1) clear a DP spot and 2) give the club a massive kitty of allocation money to play with.
Villalba has one start and four sub appearances since returning from injury | USA Today Sports Images
Hector Villalba, meanwhile, finds himself on the bench after a magnificent season, pushed out by formation change and the arrival of Ezequiel Barco. It’d be tough to part with Almiron and Viillalba, but imagine Piatti (and more signings, it’s Atlanta) in the open field with Barco and Josef Martinez. That’s terrifying in the best way.
It’s a long shot, but money talks. If the dominos start falling, you never know.
Piatti would be an eight-figure DP move. Just saying!
Like the Fire, the Sounders’ core is aging and the championship window appears to be closing. They desperately need an attacking player to stretch the field and add a true goalscoring threat. Guess what Piatti specializes in?
Remember how fun Oba-Deuce was? Those days are long gone, but how about Nacho-Deuce-Nico? Add Piatti to a healthy Seattle team, and they’re title contenders for the third straight season. Next year, Piatti and Jordan Morris are a counterattack waiting to happen. He’s expensive, but he’s a cornerstone that you can move on from in 2019.
Through it all, GM Garth Lagerwey can slowly turn the squad over with the sort of security blanket provided by an MVP candidate attacker and a relatively weak Western Conference.
Does Seattle have the assets needed to complete the deal? TBD. If the Impact’s season is kaput, Piatti’s salary is going to be tough to justify.
Columbus Crew SC
Not gonna happen, but it’s fun to dream!