After five-and-a-half scintillating seasons with the Montreal Impact, Ignacio Piatti's time in Quebec is over. Now, as he returns to San Lorenzo, the conversation has turned to Piatti's legacy as one of the club's greatest players.
But as the Impact move forward and focus on their 2020 season, which kicks off next week in the Concacaf Champions League against Saprissa, players admit it won't be easy without their talisman.
"He’s a huge loss for us," goalkeeper Evan Bush said after training Tuesday. "You miss that guy who can finish off actions and be creative. But the goal now is to form something bigger than one person, for sure."
Even without Piatti, the Impact still have a talented attacking group and will need to rely on the collective.
New head coach Thierry Henry can call upon the likes of Bojan, Orji Okwonkwo, Lassi Lappalainen, Maxi Urruti, Saphir Taider and others to pick up the load. Taider led the team in goals and assists last year, while Lappalainen and Bojan were two marquee signings over the summer.
"We have guys who are certainly capable of magical moments, but to replace a guy like Nacho, who in my opinion is one of the top [Designated Players] to ever come to MLS in terms of his consistency and the time he’s spent here and all those things, it’s not just one person that replaces that automatically," Bush said.
More than just his 66 goals and 35 assists in MLS, Piatti's presence within the club and the relationships he's built will be missed.
"I am sad, Nacho is very important for the team, for the fans," Urruti said. "When I arrived to Montreal, Nacho stayed with me and my family. … He’s a very good person."
While the timing this late in the offseason isn't perfect, Piatti's exit is not a sudden one. Rumors of a return to Argentina seemed to percolate each offseason.
"Definitely not a surprise, everyone knew it was kind of coming at some point," Bush said. "The official day kind of marks the end of the era. It's sad day for sure, sad day for the club, sad day for the guys in the locker room. Nacho was one of the best guys you’ll meet. Put the soccer aside and you lose a great guy in the locker room, a great friend."
Still, players acknowledged the greater life circumstances than surrounded Piatti's departure.
"Guys with families I think understand that certain things trump staying and being away from that," Bush added. "His newborn was probably about four months old now and you can’t miss the first year of your kid’s life. It’s too much."