MONTREAL – For the Montreal Impact, this season is about battling the odds. Expansion teams are expected to face an uphill struggle right from the start before they ultimately finish short of an MLS Cup Playoffs spot. Only a few have been exceptions.
In order to make their way onto that list of expansion playoff teams, the Impact have called upon a player who surely knows what it is to battle the odds: the club’s first Designated Player signing, Marco Di Vaio.
The veteran striker was introduced to the Montreal media on Monday, ready for his new adventure in North America after spending the past four seasons fighting every day for safety with Bologna. During the first three, the Rossoblù finished at most seven points off of the Serie A relegation zone before managing a respectable ninth place this term.
And Di Vaio will draw upon that experience to help the Impact make history.
“Expansion team, relegation-battling team, it’s pretty much the same,” Di Vaio said. “I tackled such challenges with professionalism, but what matters is what happens on the field: going on the pitch every day and work. Giving your all every game. Taking responsibilities with the young players.”
The 14-time Italian international, who scored 142 goals in 342 Serie A games with Lazio, Bari, Salernitana, Parma, Juventus, Genoa and Bologna, already sounds fully committed to his new club. The new Impact No. 9, who switched from his native Italian to decent French he picked up while playing in Monaco, certainly delighted Montreal head coach Jesse Marsch when he explained how a good work ethic brought him success in Italy.
“You have to work every day,” Di Vaio said. “I love working during weekdays, because I put a lot of expectations upon my own self. I like working with the team, and I know my responsibilities as a forward. In the end, trying to help the team is an everyday objective. Scoring goals then becomes a second nature.”
Marsch certainly liked the sound of that.
“For our team, I think he’s the perfect fit,” Marsch explained. “We need somebody in the attacking third that can make sense of things and ultimately score goals. … He’s an incredibly intelligent player. More than anything, that's the quality he has: He figures out the game, he knows how to slow things down, around the goal he’s quite remarkable. … His soccer mind is exceptional.”
Di Vaio will now rest for two weeks and take an opportunity, perhaps, to watch his first full Impact game – he has only watched highlights so far. From what he has seen, the former Bologna captain feels that one has to be realistic when considering this brand new team, but also that there is cause for optimism.
“It's not easy to win a lot of games, because there's a period where we have to grow together, to experience things together,” Di Vaio reflected. “But I've seen good things. ... The last two results were not favorable, but with home games coming, we’ll be in a good position to fight for the playoffs.”