MONTREAL — The Montreal Impact's sagging offence will have to make do without star winger Ignacio Piatti for at least another week.
The Impact will be without Piatti for their next two road games, Wednesday against the New York Red Bulls and Saturday against FC Cincinnati. The Argentine star has already missed eight straight contests dating back to March 16, when he suffered a right knee injury in a 3-1 win over Orlando City SC.
"It's not only tactical adjustment, it's (his) leadership of the team," Impact manager Remi Garde said. "Especially this group is quite young this year. It's unfortunate that we cannot rely on Nacho's experience. This kind of player can absorb the pressure during the games."
Piatti has played in just three games this season, scoring three times. He has 66 goals in 127 career MLS games.
The Impact have held the fort to the best of their ability without their star, posting a 3-3-2 record over the last eight games and holding down third spot in the Eastern Conference. But the Impact have lacked scoring punch, with just one multi-goal game over that span.
Montreal is also coming off a 2-0 loss to Red Bull rival New York City FC at home.
"On the field, he's easy to find," Impact midfielder Saphir Taider said. "When he's not there, you have to make do and adapt. But it's true when he's on the field, he frees up space."
"His absence feels cruelly felt," Garde added. "A guy like Saphir works well with Nacho and takes advantage of his presence. He often attracts two or three players around him to free space for his teammates around him."
The injury list also doesn't stop at Piatti. Defender Bacary Sagna will miss a second straight game Wednesday as he recovers from a sore hamstring. The Frenchman practised on his own Monday morning but he will not fly to New York. However, Garde didn't say whether or not he could join the team in Cincinnati later in the week.
"We try to manage as best as we can to have more bodies available for these two games," Garde said.
Since the injury in March, Piatti has spent most training sessions at the Centre Nutrilait running by himself or with fellow injured players. He recently began training with the team, but he left last Tuesday's practice early with what turned out to be muscular soreness. Garde suggested that the soreness may be the result of the knee injury he suffered.
"It's a blow," Garde said. "We don't want to complain. We have to find solutions. So far, we have done pretty well on that."
The Impact won't have too much time left to lick their wounds from their loss to NYCFC Saturday evening at Saputo Stadium. Montreal will face a Red Bulls team that is coming off back-to-back wins over FC Cincinnati and the Los Angeles Galaxy.
"They've changed their style of play in their last two games," Garde said. "But they've kept their principles which is to be aggressive and high press their opponents all the time. We'll need to adapt to that."
"We'll go to New York with the desire to take points and be a tough road team to continue our good start to the season," Taider added.
Julian McKenzie, The Canadian Press