‘He’ll always be our captain’: Montreal Impact’s Ignacio Piatti out with knee injury

The Montreal Impact are trying to remain resilient in the aftermath of star midfielder Ignacio Piatti’s latest injury.

The designated player will miss two to three months of play after stretching out the outer ligament on his right knee last week. The injury is different from the right knee sprain that kept him out of the lineup for two months earlier this season.

The Argentine is expected to miss at least 10 games starting Saturday when the third-place Impact (7-6-3) host the slumping Orlando City SC (4-7-3) at Saputo Stadium.

“It’s not easy for him, for this team,” said defender Bacary Sagna before training on Friday. “He’s our captain and he’ll always be our captain. He’s the best Impact player. We know what he brings to this team. We know how much fans love him, how this team loves him. He’s always given everything to this team. Now we wait for him, impatiently.”

“He needs to get better, spend time with his family, not think about the injury. We know he’s rooting for us.”

Piatti already missed a stretch of 10 games earlier this year after spraining his knee on March 16 against Orlando. After recovering from that injury, the 34-year-old was then sidelined with a calf injury. Montreal went 4-4-2 in his absence.

The midfielder made his first start in two months against Los Angeles FC last Friday, where he sustained the latest knee injury. He was left out of Wednesday’s 2-1 win versus Real Salt Lake — the first of four straight home games for Montreal.

Piatti, who has three goals in five appearances this season, is not expected back on the pitch before August.

“That’s the game, that’s the way it works,” said defender Dan Lovitz. “While of course we love Nacho (Piatti), we want him on the field, it’s important to show the strength of this group and the mentality of this group to step forward. If it is a difficult moment in his absence, let’s show up and let’s make sure we can get the result regardless of what’s going on.”

“It’s about the guys looking at each other and making sure the people who are responsible for picking up the slack are ready to do so and to be passionate and excited about it.”

Head coach Remi Garde is waiting for one of his players to step up offensively in Piatti’s absence.

Designated player Saphir Taider has goals in back-to-back games from the penalty spot, but he has not scored from open play since March 30. Striker Maximiliano Urruti has one goal this season, also from a penalty kick.

The Impact’s midfield has been plagued by injuries this season.

Orji Okwonkwo is out with a leg injury, while Mathieu Choinière left the mid-week Real Salt Lake game in the second half after colliding with an opponent. Choinière is in concussion protocol and unavailable for Saturday’s match.

The stars are aligned for midfielder Harry Novillo to step in and play a bigger role for the Impact. The winger joined Montreal in the off-season and was expected to be an offensive threat in Major League Soccer. Novillo, who recently recovered from a back injury, has one goal in seven appearances this season.

“Harry came here with ambition and desire, and I was really hoping he would contribute to this team,” said Garde, a second-year MLS coach. “As of right now, we haven’t met those expectations. If he plays (Saturday), he’ll need a very good game.”

Montreal beat Orlando 3-1 in a feisty affair when the teams last met in March, with Piatti scoring twice before sustaining his injury. The game ended with an altercation along the sidelines in stoppage time that saw Impact defender Zakaria Diallo get a red card for pushing Dom Dwyer to the ground.

Orlando City is 1-4-1 in the last six games, while being shut out in three of those. Orlando is coming off a 1-0 loss at home to the Los Angeles Galaxy last week.

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