There’s a new sports hero in Montreal — and an unlikely one at that.Lassi Lappalainen, a 20-year-old midfielder who only joined the Impact days ago, scored his first two goals in Major League League soccer play, helping Montreal produce a dominant 4-0 victory against the Philadelphia Union on Saturday night before 16,344 Saputo Stadium spectators.Midfielder Orji Okwonkwo, not to be outdone by the newcomer, also scored twice for the Impact, which ended a four-game losing skid and improved to 10-11-3, at least temporarily solidifying its hold on a playoff berth.The Union, first in the Eastern Conference, now has an 11-7-6 record.
Montreal Impact midfield Lassi Lappalainen (21) (second from left) celebrates his goal against Philadelphia Union with teammates during the first half at Saputo Stadium.
Jean-Yves Ahern /
USA TODAY Sports
Not only were the four goals a season-high for Montreal, but Philadelphia entered the match with the league’s second most-potent offence, having scored 41 times.The signing of Lappalainen was announced on Thursday. He joined the Impact on loan from Italian club Bologna FC. Both organizations are owned by Joey Saputo.The loan agreement is guaranteed at least until the end of this season. As well, Montreal can extend the agreement until the end of June 2020, or six months later.While it might have been surprising to see Lappalainen dressed — let alone part of the starting 11 — given his lack of practice time with his new squad, head coach Rémi Garde undoubtedly was looking to shake his team out of its malaise.Lappalainen, six-feet and 175 pounds, scored six goals this season with Finnish side HJK Helsinki. That included three regular-season goals, two more in the UEFA Champions League and one in the Finnish Cup. He was transferred to Bologna from Helsinki just this week.And the flashy Finn couldn’t have orchestrated a better script, requiring only four minutes to open the scoring.He was set up by Zachary Brault-Guillard, who delivered an impeccable pass to the newcomer. Lappalainen displayed his acceleration and finish, completing his solo run by deking goalkeeper Andre Blake, scoring on a low shot.Only four minutes later, Lappalainen displayed his playmaking skills, sending a nice through ball to defender Daniel Lovitz for a low shot. But he was turned away.In the ninth minute, Montreal’s Zakaria Diallo was issued a yellow card.About 11 minutes later, the spectators had to collectively hold their breath when striker Ignacio Piatti slumped to the turf after being locked with Marco Fabian. Piatti just returned to the active roster after missing two months with his second knee injury this season.As the half progressed, the Union began to control the play more frequently and appeared primed to score. In the 32nd, Fabian delivered a strike from distance that was smothered by Impact goalkeeper Evan Bush. Three minutes later, Bush stopped a shot from in close by Kacper Przybylko, Philadelphia’s leading scorer, with nine goals.Bush, undoubtedly sensing the tide was beginning to turn, extolled his teammates to tighten up defensively.Indeed, two minutes later, the home side connected on a counter-attack. Piatti found Okwonkwo with a short pass to the right. From just inside the box, Okwonkwo scored on a high shot to Blake’s left, past his outstretched arms.It was his fifth goal this season.The Union continued its offensive pressure. In the 39th, Przybylko clanged the iron with a shot.The opening half concluded with the Impact’s Maximiliano Urruti received a yellow card for his tackle on Auston Trusty.Both teams directed seven shots on goal through the opening 45 minutes, including three on target.The spectators barely had time to get settled in their seats in the second half when Lappalainen increased the Impact’s lead to 3-0. He broke down the left side unimpeded and scored on a low shot to Blake’s left.It was truly an incredible debut for him.Piatti was removed from the game in the 62nd minute and replaced by Rudy Camacho, an obviously hesitant Garde reluctant to overuse his most valuable player.And there really was no reason to extend Piatti, the game already well in control.Okwonkwo made it 4-0 in the 66th minute, scoring off a breakaway following a pass from Urruti.Camacho was issued a yellow card in the 76th. Lappalainen was removed in the 82nd and predictably received a standing ovation.The Impact now hit the road for a pair of games, beginning in Colorado next Saturday.firstname.lastname@example.org/HerbZurkowsky1