Impact's Jackson-Hamel steps from the shadows to play "hero of the moment"

CHESTER, Pa. – Before last weekend, Anthony Jackson-Hamel had played only one minute for the Montreal Impact this season, while dealing with unfounded speculation that he could be released.

How long ago that must now seem.

A week after scoring a stunning game-winning goal that led the Impact to a 2-1 win over Atlanta, the red-hot Homegrown striker delivered two more goals in Saturday’s hard-fought 3-3 draw with the Philadelphia Union.

“For me, the goal is to go on the pitch and try to score,” Jackson-Hamel told MLSsoccer.com. “It’s the only thing on my mind — work hard, press the defense, and score goals. To be able to do that, it’s nice.”

Jackson-Hamel’s goal last week was certainly the prettier one as he won AT&T Goal of the Week honors for a nifty backheel redirection three minutes into stoppage time. But his goals against the Union were just as clutch, as he scored in the 69th and 87th minutes to cap a stirring three-goal comeback.

“I’m really proud of him,” teammate Patrice Bernier said. “He was a bit in the shadows in the beginning of the season. But he kept working hard. Last week, he was the hero of the Atlanta game and today he comes in with two goals. We always talk about depth of the squad, and the last two games just proves it.”

Jackson-Hamel admits he’d rather be starting, but the 23-year-old certainly seems to be discovering his niche off the bench. His first goal, a header on an Ambroise Oyongo feed, came only seven minutes after he entered the match. And he once again found himself in the right place at the right time to pounce on a rebound and score the dramatic late equalizer.

“We always believe,” said Jackson-Hamel, whose three goals this season have come in only 37 minutes of play. “That’s part of the makeup of our team. We always believe we can come back in any game.”

Judging by the last two weeks, having a player like Jackson-Hamel – who Bernier called the “hero of the moment” – could be a big reason why that kind of late-game belief exists.

“He’s young, he’s powerful, he’s strong, he’s fast and he’s got a knack to be around where the ball is,” Bernier said. “Striker is not an easy position, especially for a younger player. But he’s slowly learning the ropes and getting in the right places and doing the right things.

“He’s growing as a player and hopefully he can keep growing and become a top striker for the Impact and – why not? – maybe for Canada one day.”

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