The look on his face said it all.
Yes, nothing in football feels quite like hitting the net, especially for someone who doesn’t manage the feat very often, like me when I played... or Impact’s #6, Samuel Piette.
Much had been made of when the Repentigny-raised midfielder might finally one day get his first Impact goal. Already the topic had become a source of amusement to Impact fans. Not in a bad way, for they could appreciate the 25-year-old’s value to the team, but it was a humorous talking point all the same.
No longer. Just when you thought you’d never read the words, “Piette ghosted into the box, met Taider’s cross and directed the ball wide of Hasal and into the net,” Sam did just that. Impact fans will now have to find an alternative source of amusement.
It was reward for the dedicated midfielder who has had to come to terms with a completely new role within the team since the arrivals of Thierry Henry and Victor Wanyama.
He struggled with it manfully throughout MLS-is-Back, but stuck robustly to the task, and even if things didn’t seem at all natural at first, signs have become more promising with each passing game.
That goal may well be the ‘monkey off his back’, the cataclysmic moment that raises the confidence level and confirms within the player’s own head, that, ‘Yeah, I am an attacking midfielder and I can mix it there with the best’.
It was also a big moment for the team. Body language doesn’t lie and you can see just how much it meant to all his colleagues. The coaching staff probably felt more than a little triumphant too. From their reaction, there was of course an element of joy, but also affirmation that the potential of moving Piette upfield was paying dividends and will continue to do so.
“I was really happy, especially since it gave us the 3-1 lead,” Piette said Tuesday in an interview with JiC.
“I was especially happy to see the reaction of my teammates who ran in my direction, the coaches, the players on the bench, it warmed my heart.
“I dedicate this goal to my little boy, who is not even three weeks old, and to my girlfriend, who is home alone at the moment. She was taking a nap and she woke up five minutes before I scored, so she was super happy for me. ”
We all hope and trust this is only first blood for Sam, that the taste for more is now established. Certainly following the goal a few minutes later with an assist for Romell Quioto, was another encouraging sign of Piette’s increased level of comfort.
The exciting development got mountroyalsoccer.com into thinking, which other midfielders took an age to get off the mark during their Montreal Impact careers?
Well Sam is far and away the player who has made us wait longest, although it’s true to say consistency in other aspects of his game has contributed to this by ensuring automatic team selection across three different coaches now. He’s played many more games than any other midfielder that’s lacked the scoring touch.
Let’s talk all games for the club, all competitions, not just MLS...
Sam recorded his first goal for the Impact in his 89th game (he was a starter in all 89).
Collen Warner comes next taking 40 matches (33+7) to find the net, the winning goal in a remarkable 2-1 come from behind victory at Sporting Kansas in which Alessandro Nesta was red-carded with 15 minutes remaining. That was June 2013.
There’s also Nigel Reo-Coker. To be fair to Nigel he played several games in the right-back role also, but in 40 appearances (31+9), he failed to hit the net.
Tokyo-born Ken Krolicki now with Portland Timbers II, a player favoured by former boss Remi Garde, is next on the list. Like Reo-Coker he never did manage a goal in Impact blue, despite 38 appearances (25+13).
Strangely enough, after departing Montreal, Krolicki played and scored in a couple of pre-season friendlies for Portland’s MLS team against Deportivo Saprissa and Minnesota United. The Minnesota goal was noteworthy - a wonderful 20 yard missile giving the ‘keeper no chance.
Krolicki’s stats as a marksman are just slightly worse than those of Eric Alexander who played 37 times (25+12) without registering a goal.
Scottish-born Calum Mallace, he of THAT PASS fame, managed one goal in his Impact career, in his 28th game (12+16), although to be fair most of those were not starts. Mallace’s goal was the opener in a 1-2 loss to New England Revolution in 2014. The red-haired midfielder left Montreal for Austin Bold in USL, but retired from the game at the end of the 2019 season.
Hernan Bernardello, the Argentinian import, played 26 times (23+3) before registering his first Impact goal. That came by way of an 86th minute equalizer at RFK Stadium against DC United in July 2016.
Two midfield members of the current squad bear mention. Although opportunities have been limited for Mathieu Choiniere, 24 apps (8+16) and Clement Bayiha, 16 apps (8+8), neither have yet managed to find a goal.
Maybe during the rest of this crazy, turbulent season, either one or both will remedy that fact. But by the time they do, perhaps more than one goal will be required to draw level with a certain Samuel Piette...
No pressure, Sam...