There was a welcome sight at Centre Nutrilait this morning, as Samuel Piette returned to training with the main group.
The 24-year-old has been missing from the last three Impact line-ups due to an abdominal muscle strain that emerged in the home defeat against Toronto FC. He won’t be on the trip to Colorado for this weekend’s important meeting with the Rapids, but could be in contention for a midfield start just a week later, provided his recovery goes according to plan.
Apart from Piette and Victor Cabrera (elbow), Remi Garde enjoys a clean bill of health. And unlike what some other coaches have done this season when facing sides from the opposing Conference, he seems in no mood to rest players by leaving them behind.
It’s really a ‘no brainer’ for the coach. Every point from here on in will be crucial in a very tight Eastern Conference race for post-season soccer.
After the spectacular victory over Philadelphia last Saturday, all of a sudden things look much brighter and options seem to be appearing from everywhere, the effects of an additional pair of attacking players joining the ranks.
OK, Piatti is not new, but after going for so long without The Maestro, his presence feels like an addition to the squad. Sure he’s played only two games of 60 mins so far as he re-acclimatizes towards full match fitness, but to the Argentine’s credit he looks good. Unless he’s betrayed us, ring-rustiness, is not a factor, and his removal after an hour in his first two games back, is simply good and careful management.
Of course Lassi Lappalainen is new, but no longer a surprise to the rest of MLS. You cannot explode on the scene as he did last weekend and remain unnoticed. Colorado is sure to have a plan to deal with the Finn and his fellow Bologna-loanee on the other flank, Orji Okwonkwo, who also added to his reputation against the Union.
It will be interesting to see how the youngster follows up his initial headline-capturing display. Just don’t be surprised if it’s somewhat less colourful. Despite an abundance of natural ability and pace, he’s still learning, still adjusting to the pace of MLS, and Saturday evening is likely to represent his first match at altitude - a genuine factor and the reason why Remi Garde takes his troops off to Denver a day earlier than usual to help with acclimatization, a sensible move.
Maxi Urruti looked like a player reborn, not to mention relieved, last Saturday evening, having his fellow-countryman Piatti alongside. It’s probably a not entirely favoured position for Nacho, although he, more than the young wingers either side, is best equipped to adapt his game, for the effectiveness for the team.
At times it looked irresistible with him in the centre pulling strings and all owing the pace to blossom either side. Look no further than the second and third goals. And for the fourth, Urruti provided the assist, allowing Okwonkwo to burn the Philadelphia defence. What was that about Ferraris and Fiats?
The Impact has lost three times at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, but they have also won at the the venue, 1-0 in October 2015, thanks to a 15th minute goal by Didier Drogba.
The Rapids continue to struggle at the foot of the Western Conference, and despite the relative advantage of playing at high altitude, they have lost exactly half their 12 home games this season. This, despite the conditions, is a very winnable game for the Impact.
Recent home reverses against Eastern Conference foes New England and NYCFC, have brought the Rapids back down to earth with a bump.
Previous to that, home games against Minnesota United and LAFC, brought highly creditable victories. Timely reminders, if ever they were needed, that the Impact cannot take anything for granted in mile-high Denver.