Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Ignacio Piatti: MLS's Most Dangerous?

Have we tried, "cupcakes suck"? I like that look...
Major League Soccer's Week 20 featured a lot of big performances from the league's biggest names – e.g., a hat-trick for the Montreal Impact's Didier Drogba and another hat-trick for Toronto FC's Sebastian Giovinco (the latter, especially, spelled relief like making it to the toilet in time). Elsewhere, the New York Red Bulls' Sacha Kljestan tormented New York City FC until Frank Lampard could stand it no more!

I've already hinted at this in the write-up on Montreal's big win over the Philadelphia Union, but I wanted to state it plainly here: Ignacio Piatti is the most dangerous player in MLS right now. That's a subtly different question than the MVP – where candidates reasonably abound (e.g. Giovinco, Kljestan, the Portland Timbers' Diego Valeri, or, as argued here, even Sam Cronin fits, so long as you're talking about the most important player on a good team) – and Piatti's definitely part of that conversation as well; it's just that it's a different conversation. To get at the "most dangerous" label, I'll contrast him with Valeri, another clear and justified talent.

First, I love Valeri. For me, he's the best Timbers attacker, the guy who's not just good, but a guy who makes another very good player, Fanendo Adi, even better. He does damage in several ways, including, but not limited to, the audacious shot and the killer pass: he's a huge part of what makes Portland good, when they're good. (He also rocks this saintly vibe; very appealing. Wouldn't trade him for anyone in MLS. Honest. Where else can a man that earnest go?)

And yet, even with my li'l Homer's Heart beating in protest, I'd still give Piatti the nod as the league's most dangerous player. As I see it, Piatti combines Valeri's skill-/mind-set with Darlington Nagbe’s incredible dribbling skillz, that unteachable ability to hold onto the ball with a player (or players) draped over his shoulder, even to carry it through one line after the other until Hell breaks loose and swallows everything around it (apocalyptic language bonus!). I went on about all this for over a paragraph, but it still somehow fails to truly communicate just how thoroughly Piatti flummoxed Philadelphia. There’s plenty more where that came from, too; Piatti brushes past defenders as if their shoes were laced together every damn week (or most of ‘em). On top of that, he can hit a couple varieties of the killer pass (see here and here). I’d only give Valeri an edge over Piatti is the power of his shot (and, yes, Giovinco kicks Piatti’s ass here; he’s also better at creating his own shot, unparalleled in MLS, really).

In short, Piatti makes Montreal worth watching just about any time he’s out there; he’s good for at least one thing in every game to make the price of admission worthwhile. And that brings this post to a final point...

Every so often, someone asks when the United States will produce its first Lionel Messi (while subtly lamenting that it may never happen). The U.S. doesn't need that (and, more pointedly, has having Messi brought him or Argentina any real peace?). Personally, I'd be happy as a whole damn bed of clams if/when the U.S. levels up to players like Valeri and Piatti. I mean, screw that best player in the world bullshit. Give us four or five "good" player, and let's roll the damn dice, right? (and, again, please, please work on some kind of Manchurian-Candidate kill-switch for Nagbe; there is NO ONE ELSE! See; Comments re: Piatti.)

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