Stejskal: Anthony Jackson-Hamel making case for bigger role in Montreal

Montreal Impact forward Anthony Jackson-Hamel isn’t a big name, doesn’t pull in millions and certainly isn’t getting mentioned in any conversations with David Villa, Josef Martinez or Sebastian Giovinco.

The 24-year-old isn’t even a regular starter for the Impact.

But what the Canadian international lacks in star power he’s more than making up for in productivity. The Homegrown striker ranks third in MLS in goals per 90 among players with at least 10 goals since the start of the 2017 season, trailing only Martinez and Villa and well ahead of Giovinco, reigning MVP Diego Valeri, 2017 Golden Boot winner Nemanja Nikolic and Impact teammate and perennial All-Star Ignacio Piatti.

Player Goals per 90 since start of 2017 (min. 10 goals)
Josef Martinez 1.02
David Villa 0.77
Anthony Jackson-Hamel 0.76
Nemanja Nikolic 0.71
Bradley Wright-Phillips 0.68
Ignacio Piatti 0.65
Diego Valeri 0.64
Jozy Altidore 0.62
Sebastian Giovinco 0.61

He improved his gaudy strike rate on Saturday, when, days after head coach Remi Garde publicly called him out for not showing enough in training to earn more playing time, he bagged a brace in Montreal’s 4-2 home win against the New England Revolution.

“I wanted to prove that what happened last year wasn’t luck,” Jackson-Hamel, who had nine goals and four assists in just over 1,100 minutes last year, told MLSsoccer.com on Tuesday. “I wanted that opportunity to start a game here at home and I think we did well.”

The performance may also turn into a bit of a turning point for Montreal, who snapped a four-game losing skid with their win over the Revs.

Prior to Jackson-Hamel’s brace on Saturday, the Impact had gotten next to nothing out of their center forwards this season. Normal starter Matteo Mancosu has been limited to four appearances due to injury and Jackson-Hamel was mostly relegated to the bench as Garde played nominal wide players Piatti and Jeisson Vargas at forward in four of their eight matches heading into last weekend’s win.

The results weren’t exactly anything to write home about. Outside of the prodigiously talented Piatti, who scored or assisted on seven of Montreal’s 10 goals before the New England game, the Impact weren’t getting much production from their attack. And with Mancosu and Jackson-Hamel out or on the bench, they didn’t have an outlet for possession up top. That was on full display in their 4-1 loss at Atlanta on April 28, when Piatti was left on an island and struggled to hold possession as Montreal sat behind the ball and defended deep for the bulk of their loss to the Five Stripes.

Jackson-Hamel gave them that outlet – and more – on Saturday. The striker did a good job of using his size and speed to occupy Revs center backs Claude Dielna and Jalil Anibaba, burning them when they played too high of a line and opening plenty of space for Piatti to operate. The Argentine took full advantage of that extra room, assisting on both of Jackson-Hamel’s goals and on Raheem Edwards’ tally before scoring one of his own to give Montreal a 4-0 lead.

The standout efforts by Jackson-Hamel and Piatti and the solid performance by Edwards, who was also called out by Garde ahead of the New England game, mostly ended the stir the first-year manager created with his comments last week. Jackson-Hamel downplayed their impact on Tuesday, saying that any controversy was behind Montreal.

He didn’t want to dwell much on his performance from Saturday, either, instead looking ahead to Montreal’s match at Chicago on Wednesday (8:30 pm ET | TVAS — Full TV & streaming info) and Saturday’s home contest against Philadelphia (3 pm ET | TVAS, CTV — Full TV & streaming info). He’s hoping to start both matches, and has an eye on using both to prove that he can maintain his excellent strike rate not just as a spot starter, but as a regular member of the Impact XI.

“For now, it’s just to keep doing well and keep scoring goals and hope that I’ll be in the XI more often,” he said.

“People around me know that I can score goals. Every time I’m on the pitch, I’m trying to score as many goals as I can. And for me, I haven’t played a lot of minutes, it’s not always easy, but every time on the pitch I’m trying to score and it’s good to be beside those guys [like Martinez and Villa].”  

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