After slow start in Montreal, Impact striker Marco Di Vaio leads MLS Golden Boot race

MONTREAL – The closest Marco Di Vaio ever came to winning his Italy’s Serie A Golden Boot was in 2008-09 with Bologna, and then again, he really did come just a nose short: the difference was an outrageous 81st-minute backheel from one Zlatan Ibrahimovic on the last day of the season.

Whether there is a Zlatan hidden inside his MLS Golden Boot rivals or not, there is no denying the fact that the Italian forward, whose 15 goals currently edge out Camilo and Mike Magee in the scoring charts, is enjoying a remarkable 2013.

“It’s certainly one of the best,” Di Vaio told reporters on Thursday. “I’ve scored a lot, and good goals, too. I’m happy for the team, for the club, for the fans, for everyone. It wasn’t easy for me last year, but this year, I’m really happy with how I've helped the team, the way it was expected.”

The expectations were, indeed, fairly high. Montreal’s first-ever Designated Player had a decent first half-year in MLS, scoring five goals and providing three assists. But as it dawned on Impact supporters that a first-year playoff run wouldn’t happen, they figured that, as Di Vaio would start the 2013 season with the team instead of joining midseason, his production would swell.

As they should have.

“What’s improved is mostly the chemistry, especially regarding his movement,” assistant coach Mauro Biello said. “Last year, he would make a move, but chemistry and synchronism were lacking. This year, it’s all there, particularly with the wingers cutting inside and finding him.”

“Early this season, Justin [Mapp] would find Marco with final passes, and [Andres] Romero as well,” Biello continued. “When we can play wide, we find those spaces for Marco and Felipe in the middle.”

While they did find those spaces in their previous 5-3 win against their opponents this weekend, the Philadelphia Union (Saturday, 7:30 pm ET, watch on MLS Live), scoring away has proved tricky for Di Vaio, who has pulled the trigger 13 times at Stade Saputo.

“[Leading the scoring charts] doesn’t change anything for me,” Di Vaio said. “The team and I have to do better, because if we want to have a good last two months and achieve something important this season, we have to do more away from home.”