MONTREAL — The Montreal Impact officially dropped the news on Thursday: Ignacio Piatti will sit out the next two months, at least.
After returning from a two-month absence, Piatti stretched the outer ligament in his right knee during last Friday’s game against Los Angeles FC. Piatti’s timeline for return is eight-to-12 weeks, according to a statement issued by the club.
“It’s a big blow for us, it’s very bad news for the team and for Nacho himself,” head coach Rémi Garde said. “I know that he was hurt by the first injury and now the second one is much more difficult for him to digest.”
At the team’s training session on Friday, Bacary Sagna had a thought for his teammate and how he will continue to be missed on the field.
“It’s a bit difficult, especially for him to accept it, but for the team too because he’s our captain,” Sagna said. “He will always stay our captain and he will probably stay one of the best Impact players. We know what he can bring, we know what impact he has on the team and how much he is loved.”
Garde added there could be an additional period for Piatti to go through to get up to shape following the injury.
“In an ideal world we can tell ourselves that Nacho will be healthy for the end of the season, hoping that our season leads us to where we want to go,” Garde said.
Keeping hopes up
There is no doubt that Piatti’s injury is a big blow for the Impact. However, the team has been able to make a decent damage control operation. In 11 games without him, the Impact managed a 5-4-2 record.
For Garde, the best teams in MLS are led by one or two “offensive, technical leaders.” Without his leader for a second long-term period this season, the focus will go back to adapting.
“Now we have been in a different configuration for a little while and it didn’t stop us from getting decent results,” Garde said. “That shows at the same time what are players were able to accomplish until now and we will stay motivated to continue on our run and to stay around the same position for when Nacho comes back.”
An option to replace Piatti as soon as Saturday for their game agaisnt Orlando City SC is Harry Novillo. The Frenchman came back to training last week from a back injury. Novillo will want to kickstart a poor first season with the Impact.
“It’s clear that Harry came here with ambition, and I had the ambition that he would help us out and even more,” Garde said. “For now it is true that we aren’t exactly on track with the expectations. If he does play (the Orlando game), helped by his teammates, he will need to have a really good game.”
Impact sign academy product Karifa Yao
Garde announced prior to the team’s training session on Friday that the Impact had come to terms with academy player Karifa Yao. The 19-year-old centerback had been training with the first team and signed a contract last week, making him available for Major League Soccer games. Garde spoke of Yao as a “longterm signing.”
“Of course he has a lot of players in front of him, but Kalifa could represent the future of this club,” Garde said. “He also represents the health of the academy and the hope for the kids that work well in the academy to say that there is a road [to the first team]. It’s not a freeway just yet but there is a road that Mathieu [Choinière], Clément [Bayiha], Daniel Kinumbe took already.”
Yao will stay with the Impact under-19 team for the U.S. Soccer Development Academy playoffs in late June and then will rejoin the first team for full training.