Opta Spotlight: Can Di Vaio rediscover his deadly touch?

Opta Spotlight: Di Vaio looks back

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Over the next three weeks, MLSsoccer.com will take a look back at the 2012 season that was for all 19 clubs in Major League Soccer, starting with Toronto FC and ending with the Supporters' Shield-winning San Jose Earthquakes. You can find the schedule and comprehensive reviews for each team here.

2012 record: 12-16-6 (42 points); 45 GF / 51 GA (-6 GD)

2012 Montreal Impact statistics

2012 in Review: Montreal Impact

2012 in Review: Impact's season in quotes

Armchair Analyst: More questions than answers


2012 Montreal Impact Average Position

Montreal played right up the middle this season, as emphasized in both the season review and Armchair Analyst's breakdown, and the average position chart confirms their conclusions.

Justin Mapp (21) and Davy Arnaud (22) played more like central midfielders with a propensity to drift to the flank rather than the other way around. Yes, the chart belies Jesse Marsch's 4-2-3-1, but the Impact must find a way to stretch defenses laterally in 2013.

2012 Montreal Impact Passing Matrix (Download HERE)

Based on the positional grouping above, it makes sense that Patrice Bernier (1,199), Davy Arnaud (850), Felipe (980) and Collen Warner (1,045) were Montreal's primary ball-handlers – to borrow a basketball term.

Apart from that aspect of the Impact's possession trends, the most interesting wrinkle pertains to Marco Di Vaio, and who connected with the Italian DP the most often. The usual culprits are there – see the above quartet – but player that found the Italian the second-most times was left back Jeb Brovsky. Only one of those passes was a cross.

What does that mean? Well, in the case of Bernier, Arnaud, Felipe and Warner, not much. Brovsky's tendency to hook up with the DP, however, would indicate Di Vaio's preference for the left flank and an ability to latch onto the long ball, something MLS backlines have surely caught onto.

1) Sanna Nyassi is underrated, but still has plenty of room to grow

Asked to name the three most dangerous players in Montreal during their inaugural season, most would probably go with the skillful Di Vaio, dynamic Felipe or leading scorer Bernier. That's a disservice to Nyassi, who wasn't the most efficient attacking player in the squad but was one of the most dangerous.

He led the Impact with 31 shots on target – eight more than Felipe, 16 more than Bernier and Di Vaio – and found himself on the end of 11 big chances, once again best on the team. Now, he's just got to work on his finishing (three goals from 11 chances) to improve on his total of six goals.

The Gambian could also benefit from a bit more awareness in the box, specifically in regards to his teammates' positioning. He had three assists on the year, but the Impact need more than the 23 chances he spawned.

2) Penalties ... the story of Montreal's 2012 season?

OK, maybe that's a stretch. Still, no team lived and died by the spot kick more.

The Impact earned a league-best nine penalty kicks, coverting all of them. But they also conceded eight, and couldn't manage a save on any of their opponents attempts.

Neither of those numbers are likely to be duplicated in 2013. Will the attack suffer without a glut of chances from the spot? Can the defense tighten up by avoiding a few reckless challenges?

3) Another season of Di Vaio should pay dividends, especially if the service improves.

Di Vaio's five goals and three assists in 16 starts is acceptable, if not quite the production Montreal expected when they invested big money in the Italian.

His finishing was suspect at times, perhaps the result of a bit of rust and a midseason arrival, but he certainly got in good positions, finding himself on the end of nine big chances (ones players are expected to score).

But – and it's a big but – Di Vaio finished just three and sent three off target. That conversion rate needs to jump at least 10 percent, and if it does, the Impact will have the double-digit scorer they desperately need.

Random nugget: A true striker, Di Vaio attempted just four tackles in 1,366 minutes during 2012.