MONTREAL -- Ignacio Piatti's scoring touch is only one reason the veteran midfielder has the Montreal Impact on the verge of their first MLS Cup Final.
It's Piatti's skill on both sides of the ball -- especially in transition -- that makes him so dangerous, Toronto FC head coach Greg Vanney told reporters last week during a conference call.
"For me, what sets him apart from a lot of players in this league is his recognition and his craft to anticipate when transitions are going to happen, and be one step ahead of the opposition when those moments happen," Vanney said. "And for us it's obvious to be aware of him at all times, especially and most notably when we have possession of the ball, and making sure in these moments when he separates from the defensive effort to transition that we have a keen awareness of where he is."
And when Piatti gets the ball in scoring situations, he knows how to put it away.
He led Montreal with 17 goals in the regular season and has three more in three Audi 2016 MLS Cup Playoffs matches -- including a brace in the Impact's 2-1 win at the New York Red Bulls on Nov. 6, which secured the Eastern Conference Semifinal on a 3-1 aggregate and put them into an all-Canadian Conference Championship against Toronto FC.
The two-legged series opens Tuesday night in Montreal (8 pm ET, ESPN | TSN1/3, RDS in Canada) and moves to Toronto on Sunday, with the winner of this latest 401 Derby matchup moving on to play either Colorado or Seattle for the MLS Cup title.
"When we began the season, we all dreamed about playing in the final," Piatti said. "And now we're in the Conference Final, and it's wonderful, and you have to take advantage of the opportunity. You have to be happy to be here but you have to win. I'm here to win the Cup, and we're going to try.
"Toronto is a very, very strong team, but we have played a lot of games against them and we're going to try to win here."
"We played a lot of games against Toronto this season and we know what they can do," Piatti said. "With Giovinco and Altidore up front, we have to be focused like we did in our past two games against the Red Bulls
"I think the defense improved a lot, we were good, and if we can be focused like our past three games, we can win here, and it's important not to give up any goals."