By Eve // @evejulia9
Saturday, July 27: 4-0 win
After a truly pitiful July, a month marred by poor performances, disgraceful departures and off-pitch antics, the Montréal Impact marked the summer transfer window with a whopping one signing — a twenty-year old loanee from Bologna, Finnish international Lassi Lappalainen. Many said, “Who?”, with reason. But almost as good as a signature, the Impact’s heart and soul, captain Ignacio Piatti returned from a long absence, having participated in only two matches since the month of March.
After starting and scoring the winning penalty in a less-than-inspiring 1-0 victory over CPL side York 9 in the Canadian Championship on Wednesday, the longtime left winger found himself starting his first MLS match since May. However, Piatti did so in the position of second striker while Lappalainen made his début two days after signing with the Bleu-Blanc-Noir.
The young Finn didn’t need very long to make fans remember his name. In the 4th minute, Zachary Brault-Guillard served a delicious pass as Lappalainen cut behind the defense, erasing goalkeeper Andre Blake with a touch before coolly rolling the ball into the back of the net.
Some will see it as lucky that the Impact did not concede an equalizer in the 20 minutes that followed their opening goal. However, that magical feeling that comes with Piatti on the pitch was in the air. Not only had the attack found a spark, everyone stepped their game up, including Evan Bush, who made a series of crucial saves that had been lacking from his form of late. Brault-Guillard was making the most of his match filling in for suspended Bacary Sagna, and Zakaria Diallo returned to the lineup with the flashy interceptions fans had been treated to early in the season.
Not to be outdone, the Impact’s other Bologna loanee, Orji Okwonkwo, made his way to the scoring sheet as he bombed up the right side of the field and was fed a pass by Piatti, which he emphatically struck into the roof of the net. The Impact hadn’t held a two-goal lead at half-time since the third match of the season (one of the few matches Piatti had started).
Most fans hadn’t made it back from half-time when the North Star Bell rung for a third time 12 seconds after the start of the second half. Piatti forced a turnover from the Union’s kickoff, Lappalainen seized the ball and the player who had compared himself to a Fiat revved his engine Ferrari-style to notch his brace.
As I said though, Orji was able to match his teammate, scoring his own brace thanks to an overhead clearance/assist from Maxi Urruti, allowing the Nigerian to turn on his afterburners for half the length of the pitch and finish behind Blake’s far post.
This win felt more like a cleansing than anything. The elements that had been cruelly lacking in recent matches were all present in this match — a spectacle, a whole-team effort, and a clean sheet. This win felt like vintage Impact with spectacular counterattacking goals. Is it risky to bet that Piatti’s return will be enough to return the Impact to playoff contender status? Absolutely. Am I more than excited to find out? Beyond a shadow of a doubt.
Next up: A road trip to the mountains! The Impact will take on Colorado Rapids next Saturday, August 3rd.
Featured image: @impactmontreal
Follow and chat with me on twitter // @evejulia9
Check us out on Instagram @mlsfemale