MONTREAL – Set pieces just haven’t been kind to the Impact this season.
Penalty kicks aside, Montreal have conceded 11 goals on such situations in 2012, the latest coming via Chad Marshall’s head in the Impact’s 2-1 loss in Columbus last weekend.
But lately, Montreal boss Jesse Marsch has seen his team become increasingly threatening on offensive set pieces. A significant part of the credit has to go to Italian striker Marco Di Vaio, whose set-piece service Marsch says is “fantastic.”
So while there is still room for improvement in Montreal's defensive organization and offensive spacing, the club’s Designated Player sure can bring a lot to this particular table.
“Since Marco’s been here, I think our service has gotten better on set pieces, and that would include corner kicks, free kicks,” Marsch told MLSsoccer.com. “We’re still waiting to see how to score a goal off a direct kick, but I think that will come, and Marco's good around the goal in that way. We've been pleased, and I think it's made us more dangerous.”
With the Calcioscommesse match-fixing scandal now behind him, Di Vaio appears to have rediscovered his scoring touch, as his ongoing three-game scoring streak indicates. The former Bologna skipper looks more and more comfortable in his North American journey, and that undeniably helps him in his role as the team’s designated corner kick and free-kick taker.
“I feel good on the field, so I feel good in those situations,” Di Vaio told MLSsoccer.com. “It’s going well physically, on the field and with the team. It helps things click.”
As the Serie A veteran’s first-ever playoff race unfolds, away games should prove to be crucial. Three of the Impact’s last five games will on the road, starting next Saturday, Sept. 15, at Chicago’s Toyota Park against the Fire.
Montreal, who twice lost points at home because of free kicks, know fully well how helpful scoring from such situations away from home can be. Marsch reckons that this aspect, as well as the last 15 minutes of games, will be crucial until the season finale on Oct. 27.
“Late in games, you see now, especially down the stretch, that a lot of these games are determined in the last 10 to 15 minutes,” Marsch said. “And important games are often like that. That’s why the fitness has got to be important, but also the tactical adjustments and awareness of what, late in games, it’s going to be like.”