How good can the Montreal Impact attack be?
The great Didier Drogba has finally debuted, scoring three goals on his first start last Saturday against the Chicago Fire. Fellow Designated Player Ignacio Piatti has overcome a calf injury sustained on Aug. 8 against D.C. United. Justin Mapp, after fracturing his elbow last March, made his first start in six months last Saturday. Johan Venegas, after a stint with the Costa Rica national team last week, will re-join his club team in Los Angeles later this week, ahead of Saturday’s clash with the Galaxy.
This is a wealth of attacking options that Montreal haven’t had this season. Piatti is convinced of its potential.
“Now, I think that, when Laurent Ciman, [Ambroise] Oyongo and Venegas are back, this is a very, very good team,” Piatti told reporters. “We have to keep going to enter the playoffs. I think that, if we’re all together, we can win MLS.”
This kind of aplomb has to be music to the ears of Drogba, who said in his introductory press conference that he came here to win trophies.
New interim head coach Mauro Biello is working with an ambitious bunch, and he’s relishing it.
“I recall Alessandro Nesta thinking, every single game, that we had to win,” Biello said. That’s the mentality of a champion. They’re conditioned to win. When you’ve got that everywhere on a team, that’s passed on to everyone. The more players we have with this mentality and spirit, the more our team will be able to win.”
There's nothing wrong with ambition, but the Impact know that there’s much work to do. Drogba himself raised a flag on Saturday, arguing that there’s “always room for improvement” after a 4-3 win that pushed Montreal back right above the red line in the Eastern Conference.
Piatti is just as aware that there are “many things to improve.”
“But we’re also working on our game in Los Angeles, to stay [compact] all together and to go on the attack quickly,” Piatti said.
This right here is how Montreal have gotten their best road results – or even results, period – since joining MLS in 2012. But Drogba’s work on Saturday brought a new dimension to Montreal’s attack. They’d been able to keep the ball for long stretches; Drogba’s presence gave them more purpose.
Twice, they were able to score through fine build-up play, using the flanks knowing that defenses now have to deal with such a striker in the box. And they’ve still got that quick transition card in their deck – seconds before Drogba scored his third, Justin Mapp embarked on a trademark slalom run through Chicago’s midfield.
But fans will also look to their two ambitious DPs to connect. Piatti is glad with the “good rapport” he’s built with Drogba so far. Piatti and Drogba each played four passes to the other in the win against Chicago, including Piatti’s quick free kick for Drogba’s second.
“It’s the same as last year with Marco Di Vaio,” Piatti said. “I gave him the ball, and right now, for me, it’s good, it’s easier to find [Drogba]. He does everything.”