Ignacio Piatti - Montreal Impact - celebrates a goal - close-up
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Wiebe: Ignacio Piatti should be in every MVP conversation. Here's why.

Six MLS players have at least 10 goals and 10 assists this season. Can you name them?

Don’t cheat. Stop scrolling, close that tab you just opened to check out the stats page and use your own brain power. Focus.

Here they are, in order of total goals created:

How many did you get? Was the first name out of your lips Nacho Piatti? And if not, why not?

I ask because all those players below Piatti get more headlines, more love, more award attention than Piatti. I ask because Taylor Twellman tweeted this after the Argentine helped his Montreal Impact to a very important, bounce-back win against Crew SC at Stade Saputo last Saturday.

You’re late to the party, TT. I’ve been complaining about Piatti’s relatively low profile for years. Here’s what I wrote back in April, when I made Piatti the de facto captain of my All-Underrated Best XI.

This pick is more of a “Bradley Wright-Phillips Lack-of-Appreciation Team” selection than underrated or overlooked. Piatti is the name every single defender who visits the MLSsoccer.com studios mentions as the toughest 1-v-1 matchup in the league. He’s got back-to-back years of 17 goals and 6 assists. That’s best-in-show stuff, but I never hear his name mentioned among the league’s best players. He’s earned that recognition, and if Montreal make a run this year, it’ll largely be because their talisman willed them there.

Yep, this is me patting myself on the back for a no-duh take that anybody who even watches this league a smidgeon ought to have been trumpeting since, at the very latest, 2016. The Impact are making a run this year, and [checks notes] it’s largely because their talisman has willed them there.

Because this is a teaching moment, we’re going to play another game. I want you to guess the four players who have contributed to more than 73 goals (Piatti: 48 goals, 25 assists) since 2016. I’ll help you out with their respective stat lines:

  • Player 1: 45 goals, 35 assists = 80
  • Player 2: 61 goals, 14 assists = 75
  • Player 3: 57 goals, 18 assists = 75
  • Player 4: 45 goals, 29 assists = 74

Here’s a couple more hints, in case your brain is working a bit slow or you aren’t the MLS nerd I am. The list above includes the last three Landon Donovan MVP award winners and two of the last three MLS Golden Boot winners. Players on the list lifted two of the last three MLS Cups. They’re the league’s best attacking players.

They are, in order: Sebastian Giovinco, Bradley Wright-Phillips, David Villa and Diego Valeri. They are all-time MLS greats, pantheon players for this league and their respective clubs.

Just like Piatti, which is ultimately what you should be taking away from this entire exercise.

When you talk about the best players in MLS, you should talk about Piatti. When you talk about players whose profile and performance define their clubs, you should talk about Piatti. When you talk about 2018 MVP contenders, you should talk about Piatti.

And yet, too few give the man the respect he deserves. Same goes for the Impact in general, to be honest. Is it just a Montreal thing? I asked goalkeeper Evan Bush, who is now in his seventh season in Quebec.

“First of all, we’re in Canada. To even add to that, we’re in French-speaking Canada,” Bush told me. “I think we’ll always probably have the disrespect or lack of interest coming from all over the place, and that’s fine.”

It’s fine for the Impact. They’ve got to earn respect by making the playoffs.

It’s not fine for Piatti. If Montreal don’t make it, it won’t be his fault. He’s one of the best players in MLS history. As Twellman said, it’s time to give him his due.

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