The Argentine midfielder slotted straight into Remi Garde’s starting XI for Wednesday night’s 1-0 win (3-2 aggregate) over Canadian Premier League side York9 FC in the Canadian Championship third round. The spell, which lasted 65 minutes, marked Piatti’s return from a knee injury, his second long-term absence of the 2019 season.
A 55th minute penalty kick from the Designated Player set Montreal along to a semifinal appearance in the cup competition, as they hunt their first championship there since 2014. While Piatti showed rust at times, the captain's quality lifted the Impact and gave them more confidence, resulting in the club’s first win since June 26 over the Portland Timbers.
This showing could jumpstart Piatti’s 2019 season, which has been ripe with rumors and limited on-field impact. Curtailed by injuries, he’s scored three times in five appearances this year, a far cry from 50 goals and 25 assists combined across the last three regular seasons.
"We're very happy to have won this game to kick off this last part of our season on the right foot," Piatti told reporters after the game. "We had lost a few consecutive games, so qualifying for the next round of the tournament feels good. I hope the team can continue like this."
When healthy and firing on all cylinders, Piatti has been among the league’s top players since joining Montreal in 2014, as evidenced by three straight All-Star nods from 2016-18. Piatti was also an MLS Best XI player in 2016 and 2018.
Beyond injuries, Piatti’s season has included plenty of headlines around his future north of the border. The latest development is Montreal president Kevin Gilmore affirming that the Designated Player isn’t going anywhere, since the club reportedly holds a 2020 contract option.
However, those developments haven’t stopped the rumor mill from spinning about Piatti possibly returning to his native Argentina. The 34-year-old has played for Chacarita Juniors, Independiente and San Lorenzo in his home country.
At the very least, Piatti is back scoring. And that’s welcomed news for any Montreal fan, as well as head coach Remi Garde.
"I think this was game was important to get us back on track," said Garde. "In terms of the team spirit, every player was concerned and focused today. We worked for one another for 90 minutes, and we didn't concede a goal against a team that plays really good football."