MONTREAL – Three games back, three times on the scoresheet.
Absent since the end of May when a thigh injury forced him off early against Vancouver, Matteo Mancosu has return to the Montreal Impact lineup in recent weeks, exhibiting the sort of play that one would desire from a key attacker.
“He's still not at 100 percent,” noted Impact head coach Mauro Biello after Wednesday night's 1-1 draw against Toronto FC in the first leg of the 2017 Canadian Championship final. “There's still rhythm that's lacking, but he's a goalscorer. He was able to be at the right spot today and score that goal.”
Timing his run to perfection, Mancosu was on hand to nod the rebound from a Marco Donadel drive past Clint Irwin to give the Impact the lead in the 19th minute after a short-corner was cycled high to the midfielder. TFC would controversially level in the 30th minute with Dan Lovitz down injured to set up a must-see second leg on Tuesday (7:30 pm ET | TSN, RDS) with the tie delicately balanced.
The goal was Mancosu's second since rejoining the side – he lofted a goal over Sporting KC's Tim Melia with a delicate lob in a 1-1 draw two weeks ago. Add his unselfish set-up for Ignacio Piatti's first goal in the 3-3 draw against Orlando City SC – had Piatti not needed a rebound after the Italian set up him again a minute later – and Mancosu has been a boon to a Montreal side in need of points.
With recent addition Blerim Dzemaili hitting the ground running, contributing two goals and two assists through four matches, Biello sees lots of potential in the three-headed beast who caused no small amount of bother to Toronto midweek.
“It's only a couple weeks that [Mancosu's] back at training,” noted Biello. “We've got so many games, that we can't really work on too many things, it's all about recovery. Once we [are], with Mancosu, Dzemaili, and Piatti, it becomes three guys who are going to attract a lot of attention and there are going to be openings to go forward for sure.”
Just matches into their burgeoning relationship, the trio has already caught the eye.
“There's a lot of chemistry up there with Nacho [Piatti] and Blerim,” said defender Kyle Fisher. “Matteo brings that piece to unlock things in behind, keep teams honest.”
His teammates are glad to have the savvy Italian back in the group: “He's a great player. Any time he's on the field, it's great for us,” smiled Chris Duvall. “Having him back, [Andres] Romero back, Ballou [Jean-Yves Tabla] back. Guys are starting to get healthy.”
Romero has been slowly working back from a hamstring injury that has kept him out all season, while Tabla saw his first minutes of June on Wednesday. Both are welcome additions as Montreal braces for a tough stretch with four more matches in the next two weeks.
“When [Mancosu] was gone, we had good depth, guys stepped up,” recalled Fisher. “Having [the side] healthy as we go on – we have three games in the next eight days – every one of those guys will have a big role as we go on the road this next game [against Columbus Crew SC on Saturday] and again on Tuesday against Toronto.”