Designated players Didier Drogba and Ignacio Piatti showed why they’re being paid the big bucks as they led the Impact to a 5-1 win over the Philadelphia Union in MLS action Saturday night at Saputo Stadium.
“Tonight, we were beat by stars,” said Union coach Jim Curtin. “Drogba and Piatti were unstoppable tonight. We’ve found a way to be a strong team at home. We’re still learning to be a strong team on the road.”
Drogba had a hat-trick and Piatti had a foot in all three of Drogba’s goals and scored one of his own as the Impact rewarded the sellout crowd of 20,801 with only its third win in eight games at Saputo Stadium this season.
It was by far the best performance of the season and it came amid questions about the Impact’s ability to score goals and win games at home.
It also came at a time when the team is considering some lineup changes before the transfer window closes at the end of the month. Earlier this week, technical director Adam Braz said he was looking at adding players and he took a step in that direction with a pair of trades to obtain an additional international player spot, as well as allocation money under the cap.
But coach Mauro Biello expressed his satisfaction not only with his stars but with the supporting cast.
“We were solid up the middle with Hassoun (Camara), Patrice (Bernier) and through to Nacho and Didier,” said Biello. “For me, it was a complete performance. The goal they scored was a bit of a damper but to score five goals and dominate like that was satisfying performance.”
“I liked the shape of the team,” added Drogba, who said that he dedicated the game to the memory of an aunt in the past week. “Tonight, we were able to push the ball down the field and we haven’t done that a lot.”
Drogba, who hadn’t scored since May 28, gave the Impact a 1-0 lead in the 19th minute when he converted a crossing pass from Ambroise Oyongo.
Piatti, who seemed to be on a mission after missing last week’s 3-1 loss to New York City FC because of a suspension, earned a well-deserved second assist on the goal as he took a touch pass from Oyongo, who then sprinted to daylight for a return pass. Union centre-back Richard Marquez attempted to get in the way of the pass but missed.
It was Piatti and Drogba doing the damage again in the 42nd minute. Piatti made a strong run into the middle of the box after a pass from Bernier, but Philadelphia goalkeeper Andre Blake came out to challenge him. Blake blocked Piatti’s shot but Drogba was following on the right flank and scored from 14 yards out.
Piatti took a pass at midfield, shook off a defender and set up Drogba in the 52nd minute. Piatti’s pass found Drogba as he cut between two defenders at the top of the box and he put the ball on the far post for his eighth goal of the season.
Montreal goalkeeper Evan Bush had a clean sheet until the 73rd minute when Chris Pontius scored on a header off a cross by Walter Restrepo.
Piatti scored with a left-footed drive from the top of the box in the 87th minute. Matteo Mancosu, who came on for Drogba late in the game, set up Piatti and then took a pass from Bernier and scored in injury time for his first MLS goal.
“He’s someone we’ve had our eyes on for a while,” Biello said of the 31-year-old veteran who is on loan from Bologna of the Italian Series A.
“We needed this game as a reference point,” said team captain Bernier. “It’s not about sending a message, it’s for us. We had to get to basics and I’ve said it before, if we play right, we’re a hard team to beat. This is a game that sets a standard for us to match. We won’t always win 5-1, but if we show the energy and the heart we did today. We’ll come out with a lot of victories.”
The win moved the Impact into third place in the MLS Eastern Conference with 29 points. Montreal is one point behind Philadelphia but also holds a game in hand.