MONTREAL – Amidst the uncertainly of Ignacio Piatti's future beyond this season, the Argentine playmaker continues strengthening his bargaining position to the benefit of the Montreal Impact, at least in terms of their bid for a berth in the 2017 MLS Cup Playoffs.
Piatti scored a first-half brace for a second straight game – taking his tally to six goals in his past four matches – and Montreal moved into a playoff spot with their fourth straight win, a 3-1 drubbing of Real Salt Lake at Stade Saputo on Saturday night.
On Wednesday, after scoring twice in a 3-0 win against Chicago, the Argentinian midfielder announced to the crowd that he may not be returning to Montreal in 2018. On Saturday, Piatti denied that his fine form was a result of extra motivation to perform through the rest of the regular season.
"No, I do my job on the field," Piatti said. "I said that Wednesday, I do my job, and after that it's not me who decides. I'm happy here, but my life will go on. If it's here, that's good, but if not, it's another team."
Impact goalkeeper Evan Bush was asked if he thought Piatti was trying to send a message to team president Joey Saputo about his contract negotiations with his recent play, which includes six goals and one assist during the winning streak.
"If he is, I hope Joey just keeps ignoring the message and [Piatti] keeps sending it," Bush said.
While Piatti is definitely sending a message with his play, there has been speculation that he also may be subtly doing so with his goal celebrations as well. On Wednesday, after his second goal, the Argentine celebrated by putting his hands next to his ears, a gesture made famous in his home country by legend Juan Roman Riquelme, who when in contract negotiations with powerhouse club Boca Juniors some years ago, used it as a way of telling the club's front office to open its ears to his claims for more money. On Saturday, Piatti again used the celebration after his opening goal, though he claimed it is for his daughter, in reference to a cartoon she loves.
With the win, Montreal moved into sixth place in the Eastern Conference with 36 points, one ahead of Atlanta United FC. Piatti has started each game during the Impact's winning streak after coming off the bench in consecutive losses, including 4-0 at the New York Red Bulls on July 29.
"He's amazing," Bush said. "He spoke about the contract situation last game, and he didn't skip a beat. Sometimes guys put that pressure on them if things aren't going the way they want off the field, they put that pressure to do even more and it becomes a detriment to their game. For him, it's been the opposite.
"He's stepped up and it's funny because he's not the kind of guy that's putting in six-hour days on the field and in the facility, it just comes very natural to him, and it's incredible to see and it's just kind of his demeanor. Everything about him is very calm and you can see that on the ball when he's attacking players and keeping the ball in spaces that he probably shouldn't keep it sometimes, but he's incredible and we need to keep him that way."
Montreal were in last place on July 1, when Piatti missed the first of three games because of an adductor injury. Impact coach Mauro Biello marveled at the form his All-Star midfielder has displayed since his return to full health.
"It's fantastic," Biello said. "You know, he's had two different injuries, he's got 14 goals on the season, he's a threat every time he gets the ball. What's remarkable to me about him is that I know that in every dressing room every opponent has got his name circled on the board on how to shut him down, and when you're able to do that week after week it says a lot about his qualities. And for me, it's something that I see every day at training, and then he's able to perform like that in a game is something great for us, for this city, and right now we're happy he's with us."