Down a goal in Philadelphia with time whiling away, Andrew Wenger’s 76th-minute dismissal seemed to comdemn Montreal to an unpleasant turnaround. After a 4-0 start to the 2013 season, surely they’d be 0-4 now?
But Marco Di Vaio had another kind of turnaround in mind, giving shorthanded Montreal their first point of the season with a brilliant equalizer in a 1-1 draw with the Union on Saturday at PPL Park.
On his return from a three-game suspension, Di Vaio shot and shot and shot until it worked. It finally did four minutes after Wenger walked, and for all the blame on Amobi Okugo’s shoulders for his failure to close Di Vaio down sooner, the goal was as pleasing for Impact fans' eyes as it was relieving for their minds. One player can’t change everything, but it appears he can change things a great deal.
“You know what? When you have players like that, it’s just that one moment,” head coach Frank Klopas told reporters after the game. “It’s guys that you never take off the field, because for 89 minutes, they have chances and they miss, and then – you saw him, he gets the ball, one special play that he can pull off.
"That’s why they’re guys that you never take out. Because you know that they have one magic moment in them.”
Di Vaio tends to have surprises in store for Philadelphia, after all. It’s now five goals in five career games against the Union for the Italian, but even he seemed to wonder whether he’d get there after a few mishits.
Having tested the opposition 'keeper nine, five and six times respectively in their first three games, Montreal only placed two shots on Zac MacMath’s net this time around.
Both efforts were Di Vaio's.
“I thought he worked extremely hard, but we were different in the way we played, way more dangerous, I felt,” Klopas said. “Then, when he gets four, five chances, he puts that goal in and it’s a huge goal for us.”
Klopas would certainly appreciate Di Vaio embarking on a Mike-Magee-circa-2013 scoring spree, which kick-started the Chicago Fire’s chase for a playoff spot. The Montreal head coach warned that “we have to stay grounded,” but given the number of times he praised his players’ character postgame, he must feel positive that they will.
“But now, the enthusiasm is even higher and the guys are going to go back to work even harder, which is good,” Klopas said. “The group mentality has been good from the beginning. But the results do help.”