Piatti Out as Impact Hosts NYCFC in star-studded Showdown
A game featuring some of the top names in Major League Soccer will be missing one of its stars after Montreal Impact midfielder Ignacio (Nacho) Piatti was handed a one-game suspension by Major League Soccer on Friday.
Piatti, who was barred because of a tackle on Alvas Powell during a 1-1 draw in Portland on Wednesday, will sit out a showdown with Eastern Conference-leading New York City FC on Sunday (5 p.m., TSN1, TSN3, TSN4, TSN5, RDS, TSN 690 Radio).
The Argentine’s 11 goals is only one fewer than the league leader — NYC’s David Villa. However, the game will see Didier Drogba return from a thigh injury to face his former Chelsea teammate Frank Lampard, who has been on a scoring binge of late for NYC.
The New Yorkers also bring midfield maestro Andrea Pirlo, but Montreal centre back and MLS defender of the year Laurent Ciman will sit out with an ankle sprain picked up in Portland.
Montreal coach Mauro Biello called the Piatti suspension frustrating.
“Nacho’s not a guy who is going to go out there and try to hurt someone or be dirty,” said Biello. “It was a situation where he reached out and the guy cut in front of him and his foot grabbed the back of his leg.
“I don’t think his intention was there to hurt Powell. It’s unfortunate that they took this decision before a big game nationally televised. The two leading scorers in the league going head to head. Plus all the other stars.”
NYC (8-6-6) has a four-point lead over fourth-place Montreal (6-8-4), which has two games in hand. So it would be a big game even without all the star power that got it on national television in Canada and the U.S, and that has sold out 20,801-seat Saputo Stadium.
The league is to announce its all-star teams during halftime.
“Everyone knows it will be a great game,” said Montreal defender Hassoun Camara. “There will be Didier for us, big guys for them.
“ESPN will be here. We’re ready for that. We play for this — to play in this type of game. We have to be focused on what we need to do and I think we can win.”
Drogba and Lampard moved to MLS last season, but while the Ivorian took the league by storm with 11 goals in his first 11 games late last season, Lampard has been slowed by injuries until recently. The Englishman has four goals in his last five games.
They were teammates for years in Chelsea, but this will be the first time they will face each other.
“I think Didier is one of my top friends in football,” Lampard told the league website. “It was an absolute pleasure to play with him.
“He’s a gentleman and a leader in the dressing room, as we all saw in the back end of the Montreal season last year.”
Drogba did not accompany the Impact on a two-game road trip that saw them earn draws in Salt Lake and Portland and run their unbeaten string to six games (2-0-4). But he was back in training Friday looking fresh and ready to play.
He’ll be needed without Piatti in what may turn out to a high-scoring game without Ciman there to help hold off the NYC attack.
But Biello said it helps that his central defenders, especially Wandrille Lefèvre, got a lot of extra work when Ciman was playing for Belgium in the European Championship.
And he was pleased to learn that Ciman’s injury, which the team originally feared could keep him out for weeks, is not as severe as thought and might only sideline him for 10-to-14 days.
The Impact also has newly signed forward Matteo Mancosu available if needed.