Impact 1 York9 0
MONTREAL — Ignacio Piatti’s long-awaited return from injury gave Montreal the edge it needed to stay alive in the Canadian Championship.
Piatti scored from the penalty spot as the Impact advanced to the semifinal with a 1-0 victory over lower-ranked York9 FC in the second leg of the quarterfinal on Wednesday.
Montreal won the series 3-2 on aggregate after the teams played to a 2-2 draw in the opening leg two weeks ago.
“His presence reassures the team,” said coach Remi Garde of his captain. “He’s able to take pressure off his teammates. We can’t expect Nacho (Piatti) to be on the top of his game right away, but I was surprisingly pleased with his performance today. At halftime, I asked him how he was doing, and he said he felt good, as he always does.
“His return is a big boost for the end of the year.”
Piatti was back in the lineup after missing Montreal’s last nine games with a knee injury. The Argentine has only featured in five of the Impact’s 23 MLS games this year.
Montreal’s star player scored the game’s only goal from the penalty spot in the 55th minute, calmly firing into the bottom corner while goalkeeper Nathan Ingham dove the wrong way. Piatti earned the penalty himself when his cross into the box hit Diyaeddine Abzi’s arm.
The 14,723 in attendance at Saputo Stadium serenaded Piatti after his goal and gave him a standing ovation when he came off the pitch in the 65th minute.
“As soon as I came here, I gave everything for this club,” said Piatti, who had not scored since Mar. 16 against Orlando. “I feel like I’m at home here. For the last five years, I’ve trained like I did the very first time. I always want to play. That’s what the fans like, that I give it my all in every game.”
The result snapped a five-game winless run for the Major League Soccer club.
The Impact will play either the Vancouver Whitecaps or Cavalry FC in the semifinal. Cavalry held Vancouver 0-0 in the opening leg. The teams faced each other in the second leg later on Wednesday.
The Impact took no chances against the lower-division club. Knowing a loss at home would be cause for embarrassment, Garde played several of his regular MLS starters like Bacary Sagna, Maxi Urruti and Saphir Taider.
Montreal threw everything it could at Ingham, who made six saves for the Canadian Premier League squad. The shots on target were 7-1 for the home team.
Before Piatti broke the deadlock, Ingham kept his side in the match with several big saves. The 26-year-old made a diving stop to keep Urruti’s volley out of the top corner in the 31st minute. Eight minutes later, Ingham denied Taider from a free kick.
In the 50th minute, Ingham made a commanding save on Clement Bahiya from six yards out before stopping Taider again on a fast break in the 53rd.
“Nate’s a great presence at the back, he’s got good feet, reads the game well,” said York9 coach Jimmy Brennan. “When called upon, he makes some big saves. He’s very good at what he does and the boys appreciated him.
“We knew it was going to be difficult today but I thought our guys did well. This Cup run’s over for us, now it’s about focusing on the league.”
It could have been ugly for the Impact, who nearly conceded eight minutes into the game. York forward Ryan Telfer made a run past Impact defenders, skipped around a charging James Pantemis outside the penalty area before narrowly missing a wide open net.
Notes: Pantemis made one save for the clean sheet. … The Impact lost defender Victor Cabrera to injury (elbow). … The two Canadian Championship semifinals will be played Aug. 7 and 14. … The winner of the Canadian Championship will hoist the Voyageurs Cup and clinch a berth in next year’s CONCACAF Champions League.