WASHINGTON – Playing against the hottest team in MLS, few expected the Montreal Impact to make much noise in their Knockout Round match-up against D.C. United on Thursday evening.
The Impact, though, had other plans.
Montreal used a goal just four minutes in to dampen the spirits of United’s home crowd and added three more for good measure, cruising to a 4-2 victory and setting up a date in the Conference Semifinals against the New York Red Bulls.
At the center of it all was Montreal’s maestro, Argentine midfielder Ignacio Piatti.
“Piatti has shown that he’s one of the best players in the league, and [he did it] again tonight in a tough game, a game away from home,” Montreal head coach Mauro Biello told MLSsoccer.com after the match. “In this type of game, which is tough for the away team, he came up big. He gets the assist, he gets a great goal at the end. His ability to hold up the ball and unbalance [the opposition] – he’s a special player and we saw that tonight.”
“I’m obviously happy to get the goal and the assist,” Piatti added in his native Spanish. “It’s a beautiful thing to pull out to a 2-0 lead in the first half. It let us settle in and be a bit more comfortable with the ball; obviously it also forced them to push forward and we managed to grab a goal on the counterattack.”
Montreal had struggled in the two games leading into their match with D.C. and had been dealing with the ongoing turmoil surrounding Didier Drogba’s absence from the line-up. In the midst of all of that, Piatti was a wrecking ball, giving United fits down the right flank and finding Matteo Mancosu at the back post for Montreal’s second goal.
With D.C. in the rearview, Montreal next turn their sights to an ever more daunting task.
“Obviously we have five games left,” said Piatti. “Four to be the Eastern Conference champions. But everything will depend on this series with the Red Bulls; they’re obviously a tough team to deal with, especially at home.”