MONTREAL — It took a Lassi to get through the dog days of summer.
Montreal Impact newcomer Lassi Lapalainen had a convincing debut, bagging two goals and fellow Bologna FC loanee Orji Okwonkwo scored twice in a 4-0 win over the Philadelphia Union at Stade Saputo Saturday.
The youngsters helped the Impact snap a four-game losing streak in MLS play. For Lappalainen, his debut wasn’t quite like how he had dreamed it.
“Actually, I saw a dream scoring one goal so not like in my dreams,” Lappalainen said. “But this is a dream now.”
It took four minutes for Lappalainen to find the back of the net. During a counterattack, Zachary Brault-Guillard sprinted down the left side and sent a through ball into the box for the Finland international. Lappalainen took control of the ball, dribbled past Andre Blake and opened his account in an empty net.
“I think everybody would dream of a debut like this,” Montreal coach Remi Garde said. “He confirmed tonight that he was a player with speed and technical qualities to combine with others in the play.”
Impact fans had to be back on time from the concession stands to see Lappalainen’s second goal. Twenty-eight seconds into the final 45 minutes, he intercepted the ball and headed to the net, beating Blake a second time to stun the conference leaders and bring the score to 3-0.
“There are very little remarks to give him so it’s good, it’s very encouraging,” Garde said. “We need to give him a bit of time. He placed the bar high tonight, but he has a great potential which we are very happy to be able to work with.”
Jul 27, 2019; Montreal, Quebec, CAN; Flag of midfielder Ken Krolicki (13) as seen near the Stade Saputo before the game between the Montreal Impact and Philadelphia Union. Mandatory Credit: Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports
All eyes on Lassi
With his performance, Lappalainen knows MLS teams will be watching him more closely. The 20-year-old said he could channel what he went through while playing in Finland.
“In Finland it was the same thing, I scored a few goals at the beginning of the season and they noticed that,” Lappalainen said. “But still I continued scoring some goals so hopefully here it’s the same thing.”
Despite his fruitful debut, Lappalainen gave credit to the level of play he has seen from his new teammates. He also saw a sharp difference in humid Montreal summers from his native Finland.
“The pace was a lot bigger. In Finland it’s like, standing sometimes,” he said. “The weather, it’s so hot here, it makes it more difficult, but I hope that in the next game it’s going to be much easier. Today it was a bit harsh.”
Okwonkwo-Lappalainen: The Bologna youngster duo
Garde is conscious there is hype around his two young players and their scoring ability. However, calming them down isn’t much of a worry to him.
“I’m not too scared about (containing the hype), I’m more scared that Bologna will call back the players,” Garde said jokingly. “It’s great that the players have scored and it’s very important. But you can trust me that I will make them keep their two feet on the ground.”