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Montreal Impact prepare for biggest test yet against LAFC

The Impact will face LAFC at Banc of California Stadium Friday, but will be without Samuel Piette, who will serve a one-game suspension for yellow card accumulation

MONTREAL — The Montreal Impact are set for the biggest test of their season in California on Friday against league leaders LAFC.

The Impact will have a rare absentee in the plane ride to Los Angeles. Samuel Piette — the team’s most reliable player — will not suit up because of yellow card accumulation. This ends the midfielder’s 51 consecutive game streak, a club record.

“Sam is a bit like the fossil of the team. He’s there, he doesn’t move and he brings us a lot,” said Bacary Sagna. “It goes with his state of mind too, he’s always all out, wants to do well for the team and sometimes he’s cautioned. Rightly or wrongly, it’s like that, but regardless we’ll have to do without him. It will give the chance to others to prove themselves.”

Jukka Raitala doesn’t even remember a game where Piette wasn’t in the starting eleven. However, the Finland international remains leveled with the idea that his team can perform without one of their clear starters.

“Sam is very important, but (Ignacio Piatti) has been out for a while and we’ve been doing a pretty good job without him,” said Raitala. “When someone goes out, somebody has to step in. We have a good roster with a lot of good players, injured players are getting fit so it’s looking good.”

Without their de facto defensive midfielder, the Impact could be tempted to change their formation on the road once again. Remi Garde opted for a 3-4-3 formation in the 2-1 win at the New York Red Bulls. Montreal kept three defenders at the back when the team played in Cincinnati. For Sagna, the Impact should stick to their guns in California.

“I don’t think we should adapt to LAFC. We need to keep our identity, we need to stick to our strengths,” Sagna said. “For now we are in third place, we want to keep it and we will play one game after the other. Now for sure that the fact that Sam won’t be there will be a little weird at the start.”  

Ignacio Piatti, a confidence boost

With about 30 minutes in the legs, Ignacio Piatti can be considered an option for the Impact’s clash against LAFC. It remains a mystery whether the Argentine will actually start the game, but his presence is a confidence booster for the team. 

“We saw the welcome that the crowd gave him (in the last game), we know that Nacho is probably our best player for many years,” said Sagna. “We know what he can bring to the team, he’s our captain, so mentally it feels good.” 

Sagna stressed that the two-and-a-half month period Piatti missed should still be in the back of everybody’s minds. The former French international warned that people should give Piatti time regardless of if he starts at Banc of California Stadium this Friday.

“If he starts, we shouldn’t expect too much of him either,” Sagna said. “It’s on us to support him too, not everything should fall on on him. We did pretty well until now, but it is an advantage (to have him).”

Ken Krolicki close to a return

Ken Krolicki was in full training with the squad during Tuesday morning’s practice and is closer to a return than ever. The 53rd overall pick at the 2018 MLS Superdraft missed every game this season due to a dislocated elbow in preseason. 

“He’s someone that is fresh and has a lot of hunger. He’s also someone that learns a lot and listens,” said Sagna. “He will bring us a lot as well because he’s a fighter on the field, he never gives up. He’s always on players, always in the right zone. He’s a little bit like [Gennaro] Gattuso.” 

For Daniel Lovitz, the Michigan State alum has been one of the hardest working guys on the team since he joined in 2018. The fullback rejoiced having Krolicki back in the fold for the near future. 

“He’s familiar to the college grind and how things kid of work so it’s easy for him to come in, unfortunately put his head down and eat away the days in the different phases of a long injury,” Lovitz said. “He’s been incredibly professional. I think he’s just about ready and cleared so he’s picked up right where he left off. It’s exciting to have him back.”

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