Ignacio Piatti

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Montreal star Piatti ‘welcomed’ by San Lorenzo president

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One of the best players in Major League Soccer’s history is going home.

Ignacio Piatti has left the Montreal Impact to sign with San Lorenzo, the Argentine club of former Newcastle center back Fabricio Coloccini and ex-Sunderland man Santiago Vergini.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ] 

Piatti was far and away the Impact’s top player, scoring 66 times with 29 assists in 135 matches. He scored 50 of those goals between 2016-18.

However, the 35-year-old missed all but 11 matches last season with knee injuries.

San Lorenzo sits 12th in the Argentine Superliga, nine points back of the lead on a congested table. Piatti won the Copa Libertadores with Santo before moving to MLS.

The 2020 MLS season is going to test new Montreal boss Thierry Henry, who does have attacking talent through Bojan Krkic, Saphir Taider, and others. But Piatti is a powerful part of the Impact’s run in MLS.

Main takeaways from MLS contract deadline day

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Major League Soccer saw a lot of big names in the news as “Contract Deadline Day” played out across the U.S. and Canada.

— The New York Red Bulls watched two all-timers walk out the door, as Bradley Wright-Phillips did not get a new contract and the club declined its option on Luis Robles (STORY).

— Not a player move, but Austin FC announced the hiring of former NYCFC sporting director Claudio Reyna to the same position.

[ MORE: PST’s talk 1v1 with Reyna earlier this season ]

— Toronto FC is yet to reach a deal to keep Michael Bradley in town, but remains in contract talks with its captain. The same is true for Nicolas Benezet, while Drew Moor is out-of-contract.

— And that’s also what’s happening in Portland with Diego Valeri, the longtime star in talks with the team despite not having his option picked up.

Chicago Fire announced a new branding initiative, changing its logo from a classic crest to something else and dropping the SC for an FC. Like Columbus before them, everyone will still call them the fire and ignore the SC, FC, or whatever see. It’s what happens when you take a formal nickname.

The club also cut ties with playmakers Nico Gaitan and Aleksandar Katai.

— Minnesota United remains in talks to bring back Reading loanee and reigning MLS Goalkeeper of the Year winner Vito Mannone, and that means longtime backstop Bobby Shuttleworth will hit the open market.

— Orlando declined its option on Dillon Powers, and also let the clock run out on the contract of one-time megastar Sacha Kljestan.

— Real Salt Lake did not reach an agreement with Kyle Beckerman on a new deal, though MLSSoccer.com thinks he’s still in the mix.

— New England is letting Juan Agudelo walk into free agency.

— Atlanta United exercised the contract option for Julian Gressel, but he’s being badly underpaid and the club needs to find salary room for a proper new deal.

— Thierry Henry is keeping his two brightest attacker, with Ignacio Piatti getting another year at the club and Saphir Taider seeing his loan from Bologna made permanent.

— The Philadelphia Union did not exercise their option on Marco Fabian, and are letting Haris Medunjanin leave without a new deal.

— Roman Torres did not see his option exercised by the Sounders, and Kim Kee-hee is also leaving the club.

— Sporting KC waves goodbye to Seth Sinovic, Krisztian Nemeth, Benny Feilhaber, and Gedion Zelalem.

Montreal loses Piatti for another 8-12 weeks

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Montreal’s lofty hopes just took a major hit, with annual Player of the Season candidate Ignacio Piatti lost for 8-12 weeks with a ligament injury.

Piatti, 34, has scored 75 goals for the Impact since arriving from San Lorenzo in 2014, chipping in 34 assists to boot. He scored 16 or more goals in each of the previous three seasons, including a 16+11 campaign last year.

[ MORE: U.S. U-20s move on ]

He scored thrice in the club’s first three matches this season before a knee injury cost him the next 10. He returned for two matches before this current flare-up.

The Impact have dealt with Piatti’s absence well, sitting two points back of East-leading DC United. They have a seven-point lead on eight-place Toronto FC, who have played three less matches.

Saphir Taidir becomes even more in-focus for Montreal during Piatti’s absence, though getting him back for the stretch run would be a nice boon for Remi Garde.

An infuriating attempt at the 2018 MLS Best XI

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It occurs to me that projecting an MLS Best XI for this year is tougher than its been in some time.

In truth, it’s probably been growing in that manner on an annual basis. Shoot, look at last year’s post on the topic.

It’s especially difficult to narrow down your attackers if you want an XI to be representative of anything close to a unit you’d place on field.

[ MORE: Champions League Weds. wrap ]

Consider that the league has three 20-goal scorers, none who could be considered anything close to a midfielder, and six players with double digits goals and assists.

Let’s start with the necessities.

Forwards: The XI could not look remotely rational without Josef Martinez’s 30-goal record season, and there’s on debate that Zlatan Ibrahimovic‘s 22 goals in 26 matches rates.

So there’s two forwards, which means you need to exclude all but one of the following players:

  • Wayne Rooney — 12 goals, six assists, 19 matches
  • Bradley Wright-Phillips — 20 goals, 7 assists, 31 matches
  • Carlos Vela — 13 goals, 10 assists, 27 matches

And, by the way, Adama Diomande has 12 goals in 17 matches and David Villa 13 in 22. Not bad.

Midfielders: Miguel Almiron, Ignacio Piatti, and Nicolas Lodeiro have had out of this world campaigns, as has Alphonso Davies. Both Davies and Piatti are unlikely to make the playoffs, and should that matter? Orlando’s Yoshi Yotun and Mohamed El-Munir (a defender) have been amongst the best at their spots, but their team was terrible.

Borek Dockal, Luciano Acosta, Lodeiro, and NYCFC’s Maxi Moralez have 15 assists or more. Sebastian Giovinco and Darwin Quintero are just off the pace despite playing 27 and 26 games on bad teams.

Dockal is averaging an assist in two of three matches this season, and Piatti.

Piatti!

Defenders: This one’s difficult because you need at least three and this league is like the Dutch Eredivisie on steroids (Even that league only had one 20-goal scorer last season).

There’s a bit of cheating in including Sporting KC’s Graham Zusi, the influential right back who also plays advanced at times and also guarantees us an SKC man on the roster. And Matt Besler is a better positional fit, but Zusi feels more necessary.

It feels like either Aaron Long or Tim Parker should represent the Red Bulls, and Walker Zimmerman has reclaimed his elite form with LAFC.

Goalkeepers: Tim Melia and Luis Robles both pace the league in clean sheets with 13, while Andre Blake of Philadelphia and Evan Bush have thrived on… less impressive units. Bush has faced 181 shots, more than all but one goalkeeper, and has made a league-high 130 saves in keeping Montreal alive.

Conclusion: Look, we’re going to have to try and outscore the other team now, aren’t we? And we’re going to lose. But it’s going to be fun.

I’ve got it down to 10 players, only repeating two teams (Red Bulls and Atlanta).

There’s no one from Dallas, who deserves a man, nor NYCFC. Plus  we’ve got two players who could miss the playoffs in Zlatan and Piatti, but it’s crazy not to include them. It just is.

So who gets our 11th slot? A stable center mid? Vela to make it a 3-4-3 and a third team with two slots?

Robles (RBNY)

Zusi (SKC) — Zimmerman (LAFC) — Long (RBNY)

Almiron (ATL) — Piatti (MTL) — Dockal (PHI) — Lodeiro (SEA)

Vela (LAFC) —  Ibrahimovic (LAG) — Martinez (ATL)

Juventus wins MLS All-Star Game in PKs

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The MLS All Star Game couldn’t be decided over 90 minutes in Atlanta, and Bradley Wright-Phillips missed the lone penalty kick as Juventus ran out winners.

Juventus opened the scoring off a set piece, with Andrea Favilli nodding home in the 21st minute.

Josef Martinez leveled score on a goofy play which found Juve goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny all over the place.

[ MORE: Champions League wrap ]

Martinez knocked a cross down to Carlos Vela, whose shot was parried by Szczesny. The goalkeeper couldn’t find his feet to track the loose ball, and Ignacio Piatti headed the ball back across the six.

Martinez got his head to it for 1-1 (video below).

The final 15 minutes saw the teams angling for a winner, with Diego Valeri denied by Mehdi Benatia goal line clearance and Juve’s Leandro Fernandes sending an arrow just over the bar.

History of MLS All Star Game
1996: East 3-2 West
1997: East 5-4 West
1998: USA 6-1 World
1999: East 4-6 West
2000: East 9-4 West
2001: East 6-6 West
2002: MLS 3-2 USMNT
2003: MLS 3-1 Chivas Guadalajara
2004: East 3-2 West
2005: MLS 4-1 Fulham
2006: MLS 1-0 Chelsea
2007: MLS 2-0 Celtic
2008: MLS 3-2 West Ham United
2009: MLS 1-1 Everton (Everton wins in PKs)
2010: MLS 2-5 Manchester United
2011: MLS 0-4 Manchester United
2012: MLS 3-2 Chelsea
2013: MLS 1-3 AS Roma
2014: MLS 2-1 Bayern Munich
2015: MLS 2-1 Tottenham Hotspur
2016: MLS 1-2 Arsenal
2017: MLS 1-1 (2-4 PKs) Real Madrid
2018: MLS 1-1 (3-5 PKs) Juventus