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Impact star Piatti says knee is fine, hopes to start CONCACAF quarter-final

01/30/2015 06:16 EST | Updated 04/01/2015 05:59 EDT
MONTREAL - Ignacio (Nacho) Piatti says his knee feels better, but coach Frank Klopas wants to be careful with the Montreal Impact's star midfielder.

Piatti is coming off surgery to repair tendinitis in his left knee and has been training on his own through the first week of camp at Olympic Stadium.

He expects to resume full training in just over a week and be ready when the Impact play the opening leg of their CONCACAF Champions League quarter-final against Pachuca on Feb. 24 in Mexico.

Klopas doesn't want to rush his best attacking player, adding it was still to be determined if he will be able to play a full 90 minutes.

"We know he's feeling good," the second-year coach said Friday. "We have to make sure there are no setbacks.

"The important thing, especially on (artificial) turf, is to make sure there's no swelling. The plan was to have him with the team at 100 per cent in Mexico, so I think we'll push him even more next week and then we'll stick to the plan. I think he'll be ready to go full out in Mexico."

Klopas is looking forward to having a healthy Piatti help lead a club that has made major changes since finishing last in Major League Soccer in 2014.

The 29-year-old Argentine inked a 3 1/2-year deal as a designated player with Montreal on July 2, but stayed behind to help his club San Lorenzo win the Libertadores Cup (South American championship). He joined the Impact on Aug. 13 and made his MLS debut three days later against Chicago.

Piatti dazzled with his quickness and skill, but a sore knee limited him to six league games, in which he scored four goals.

He could have chosen to rest the knee, but opted for what was considered minor surgery. He said all went well and his recovery, slated for three months, is on schedule. And he doesn't expect it to hinder his play.

"No because it doesn't touch the knee as it is," he said through an interpreter. "It's on the side of the knee, so it shouldn't have any effect on my speed or skills."

Piatti is to start full training when the Impact move to Mexico for the second phase of training camp on Feb. 8.

"I'll be ready," he said.

The Impact have rebuilt their central defence with the addition of Belgian international Laurent Ciman and MLS veteran Bakary Soumare and a pair of new holding midfielders in Nigel Reo Coker and Italian Marco Donadel. There is also a new left back in Ambroise Oyongo, a veteran midfielder in former New York Red Bull Eric Alexander and speedy new forward Dominic Oduro.

There may even be a change in goal as newcomer Eric Kronberg competes with incumbent Evan Bush. The club hopes to fix its porous 2014 defence and be better at building attacks from the back.

"Nacho came late last year and I think the team played a lot better with him on the field," said Klopas. "With the changes we made this year, I think he's also more excited."

They still hope to add a proven striker, likely as a second DP, but that may not come until the summer.

Meanwhile, Ciman has looked smooth since joining camp this week.

"He's got a lot of quality," Klopas said of the former Standard Liege defender. "He has the ability to switch the point of attack and make good decisions.

"He's a very good passer of the ball with both feet and he's a very smart player who reads the game really well. That's what we expected."

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