The Vancouver Whitecaps brought Davide Chiumiento over from Switzerland to add some magic to their midfield.
On Saturday against the New York Red Bulls, he did just that as he ran the show from his withdrawn forward position. Unfortunately for the Whitecaps, though, he was brought off because of an injury in the 57th minute.
“I think losing Davide really changed the complexion of the game,” Joe Cannon said following Saturday’s 1-1 tie. “Not only his goal, but just his possession.”
The Swiss-Italian scored his side’s lone goal after a surging run from Camilo Sanvezzo down the left side. Chiumiento chipped Camilo’s pass up to himself before spinning with a shot on the volley into the roof of Bouna Coundoul’s goal.
It wasn’t just his goalscoring that was missed when he stepped off the field, though.
The Swiss international was central to a number of scintillating passing moves in the first half, culminating with a pair of clever touches on the play that would eventually lead to Jan Gunnar Solli’s sending off in first-half stoppage time.
In many ways the performance summed up the Heiden, Switzerland native’s season. As in this game, the 26-year-old started the 2011 campaign strongly, with five assists in his first seven games, and looked ready to stake a claim as one of the league’s top playmakers.
But just as the Whitecaps sputtered out in Saturday’s match, so too did Chiumiento, who seemed to fade as the grueling MLS schedule set in.
First there was the controversy over his position: He expressed frustration on a number of occasions that then-head coach Teitur Thordarson was playing him as a winger and not in his favored withdrawn forward role.
There has also been a continual struggle for fitness, with a recurring hamstring problem that seems to heal before returning at the most inopportune of times — Saturday being another prime example.
His injury troubles have led to a more troubling weight issue. Chiumiento told the Vancouver Sun following the 2-1 defeat to the Portland Timbers on Aug. 20 that he was 10 pounds over his prime playing weight.
“I need to work on my fitness,” Chiumiento said. “I’m too heavy at this moment and it shows on the field.”
Whether his injury issues are due to carrying extra weight or vice versa is difficult to say, but going in to next season the ‘Caps will need to look at ways of keeping Chiumiento healthy and happy, because there’s no question his playmaking ability has few rivals when he’s at his best.
Martin MacMahon covers the Vancouver Whitecaps for MLSsoccer.com