Impact's Di Vaio sets bar high after up-and-down MLS start

Alessandro Nesta wasn’t the only Montreal Impact player who needed an actual break. One of his dearest friends did, too.

When Marco Di Vaio made his debut under Nesta’s watchful eye late last June, he'd enjoyed a four-week break after his last match as a Bologna player, followed by two weeks of training in Montreal, which were interrupted by flights to and from Italy for a hearing related to the Calcioscommesse match-fixing scandal.

While Di Vaio did find some sort of rhythm in August and September, scoring four goals in four games, he now acknowledges that it wasn’t the easiest way to start a career in MLS. Simply put, the Impact No. 9 suffered from some sort of long-term jet lag early on.

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“In a sense, he had to re-synchronize his clock,” Impact fitness coach Paolo Pacione told MLSsoccer.com last week in Florida. “His preseasons are usually in July leading into a season in September. He went almost a year and a half straight. Once we were done with our tour in Italy [in mid-November], he had some time to recover, to recuperate and get back in sync.”

Di Vaio certainly enjoyed the much-needed break. He stayed in Italy with his family, celebrating Christmas as they’d always done. But he nonetheless determined that, at 36 years of age, two months off was too long of a break. If he was going to accustom his body to a North American schedule, he was going to do it on his terms.

“On Jan. 4, I met Paolo [Pacione, Impact fitness coach] and we worked together for two weeks, training specifically so that I would be ready for preseason,” Di Vaio told reporters.

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And so, with a detailed plan and base laid out for him by Pacione, the work started: endurance training, general strength training, and addressing muscular issues – “which he had none,” Pacione pointed out.

Now that the striker has re-joined his teammates, Pacione feels he is just about in the optimal condition for him to meet the towering expectations that come with the Designated Player tag.

“He impresses me every day,” Pacione said with a chuckle. “We worked one-on-one together, and he set the bar for me. I put the work out there, but he kept setting the bar higher and higher, and I kept pushing him along that way.”