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Montreal Impact remain focused ahead of first Toronto FC matchup of 2019

And Ignacio Piatti is inching closer to a return for next week’s Columbus Crew game.

May 29, 2019; Montreal, Quebec, CAN; Montreal Impact midfielder Omar Browne (19) celebrates his goal against Real Salt Lake with teammates during the first half at Stade Saputo. (Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports)

MONTREAL — Saturday night will mark the start of another chapter of the Canadian Classique. For the Montreal Impact, the rivalry game has an extra meaning. 

For the first time this season, the Impact have lost two straight games in Major League Soccer play. Hosting a high-octane game against Toronto FC could mean a return to winning ways both physically and mentally. 

“Confidence-wise, I think we’re growing as a team but we still have to improve,” Bacary Sagna said. “We have a good team with quality players, but sometimes we’re a bit shy to come out in front of the goal and create some danger.” 

“We have to be conscious that, for me, we can beat anyone,” Sagna added. 

For Jukka Raitala, the key for the Impact to get back in form is to stay focused despite the heat of the rivalry. 

“I think we have played good games but we’ve made some mistakes that (were costly),” Raitala said. “The second thing is to work together. We need to keep the work ethic very high.”

Sagna agreed with Raitala’s point saying the team should focus on itself rather than what is going on with other teams. The former France international stressed that the Impact will want to immediately start on the front foot and dictate the tempo of the game.

“On our side, we know we have to win, we know that we need to get a maximum amount of points as soon as possible,” Sagna said. “At the moment we’re in a comfortable position, but to stay in that position and to improve we have to win.”

The team’s first rivalry game of the season comes at the right moment. The Impact have high hopes of playing in a full Stade Saputo where the elevated emotions can kickstart their recent form.

“You can feel the pressure, it’s a rivalry,” Sagna said. “I know that it’s very important for the club, for the fans and for Quebec. To play a good team like Toronto is a good way to get back on track and show that we have a good team.”

Piatti: Return for Columbus Crew game possible

Head coach Remí Garde was positive when talking about Ignacio Piatti at Friday morning’s training session. The Argentine could be available next Saturday against Columbus Crew SC.

“Honestly, yes we are at this point,” Garde said about chances to see Piatti in action next week. “We never know what will happen but I’m leaning on a positive standpoint.” 

Piatti rejoined his teammates in training sessions this week and has shown signs of progression. The 34-year-old has played only 353 minutes this season. 

“Honestly, I hope that next week will go well from a pain and an athletic point of view,” Garde said. “He spent a lot of time out of play and he needs to get his feelings back.”

Impact president doubles down on keeping Piatti

Impact president Kevin Gilmore put his foot down this week regarding the transfer rumors surrounding Piatti. Montreal’s star player was linked to a return to Argentina with Independiente and San Lorenzo showing interest. 

Gilmore took to Twitter and stated — in both English and French — that the Impact had the intention to keep Piatti. The Argentine is in the last year of his contract but has an option for the 2020 season. Gilmore stressed that the club would exercise it to hold on to their star for a seventh season.

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