MONTREAL â€” Still looking for their first win of the season, the Montreal Impact will get a boost with the return of three key injured players for their Saputo Stadium opener.
Head coach Mauro Biello confirmed that star midfielder Ignacio Piatti (hip/groin) and defenders Laurent Ciman (knee) and Hassoun Camara (head) will be available for Montreal’s home game against expansion Atlanta United on Saturday, though he wouldn’t specify if they were starters or substitutes.
“Nacho (Piatti) has had a good week,” Biello said Friday. “He’s passed all the tests. Today’s the last test for his rehab. He’ll be available for me for (Saturday’s) game.
“Laurent is also available and Hassoun completed the (concussion) protocol and everything went well.”
The Impact are playing their first match at their home field this season and their second in Montreal after earlier drawing the Seattle Sounders 2-2 at Olympic Stadium.
The Impact went winless on a three-game road trip following the Seattle draw. Piatti missed the last two of those games â€” a 2-2 draw in Chicago and a 2-0 loss in Los Angeles.
Both Camara and Ciman played versus the Galaxy, but Camara had to leave the game in the 35th minute after falling over and knocking his head on the ground.
Having Piatti back on the roster, whether as a starter or substitute, will give Montreal a much-needed spark on offence. The Impact (0-2-3) have scored just five goals in five games this season. Piatti has one of those.
Since 2015, including the post-season, Biello’s men are 30-21-17 when Piatti is in the starting formation. They’re 2-7-4 when he isn’t.
“He’s such an important player for us,” said Ciman of the Argentine midfielder. “He’s just so dangerous. We’ll be extremely happy if he’s playing (Saturday).”
Piatti’s return will fill a hole on the left wing, but a suspension to Marco Donadel means Biello still has some juggling to do in the midfield.
Donadel was shown a red card for a tackle on L.A.’s Jermaine Jones last week. The Impact felt the sending off was undeserved and appealed the suspension, but an independent panel rejected the appeal on Thursday.
“Honestly, we’re disappointed,” said Biello. “Donadel was just trying to get a better position on Jones. There was a bit of contact, but that’s not a red card. Their decision is final, so now we have to move on.”
Biello has a few options in midfield, including starting Calum Mallace or Adrian Arregui in the holding midfielder’s position.
The Impact coach could also move veteran Patrice Bernier next to Hernan Bernardello and give another start to the youngster Ballou Tabla as a central attacking midfielder between Piatti and Dominic Oduro.
“I’m evaluating all my options,” said Biello. “I have a few choices. I don’t want to change too many things around.”
The Impact are playing just their second game in Montreal this season. They drew Seattle 2-2 in a game at Olympic Stadium
Defender Wandrille Lefevre will also be eligible to face Atlanta United on Saturday. Lefevre was suspended by the Impact on Wednesday for what the team called an “unacceptable social media post.” Major League Soccer reviewed the incident and rescinded the suspension on Friday.
The Impact’s opponent on Saturday is a quick and talented side that is off to a fast start in its first-ever MLS season. Atlanta United (2-1-2) is tied for third in the East and has scored a conference-best 13 goals in five games.
Montreal is fortunate that Atlanta will be without its leading scorer Josef Martinez, who is out at least two more weeks with a quad injury. Forward Yamil Asad will also miss the game due to a red card suspension.
Impact defender and Atlanta-native Chris Duvall says it’s a pleasure to see his hometown doing well.
“With a team full of guys who have never played together before, they’ve looked really good and really cohesive,” said the 25-year-old Duvall. “It’s been impressive to watch.
“But as long as we hold down our defensive responsibilities, we should be able to catch them on the counter.”
Notes: A report out of Italy this week suggests Swiss international Blerim Dzemaili will join the Montreal Impact in May, two months earlier than expected. Dzemaili, who signed a multi-year designed player contract with Montreal, would reportedly miss Bologna’s last three games of the current Serie A season.
Kelsey Patterson, The Canadian Press