MONTREAL – The Montreal Impact would put an end to their own playoff race with a win this Saturday against archrivals Toronto FC (4 pm ET, TSN/RDS in Canada, MLS Live/Univision Deportes in US), but another race will still be on even after Marco Di Vaio’s itinerary concludes at BMO Field.
With his two fellow contenders scheduled to play on Sunday, Di Vaio will get one last chance to stake his claim for the Golden Boot vs. TFC. Di Vaio and the Chicago Fire’s Mike Magee have both scored 20 this season, but Magee currently holds the tiebreaker advantage with two more assists. The Vancouver Whitecaps’ Camilo, meanwhile, has notched 19 goals – to go along with a potentially award-clinching six assists.
Should Di Vaio become the oldest player to win the Golden Boot, it would be his first such award in 15 years – he scored 21 goals for Salernitana in 1997-98, albeit in the Italian second division. In any case, he’s not feeling that particular pressure, as he sees the rivalry match as more of a last opportunity to help his team in the regular season.
“We have to make the playoffs, because we’ve worked all year for that, for a spot among the top five teams [in the Eastern Conference],” Di Vaio told reporters on Thursday. “For the work we’ve put in and what we’ve showed on the field, we’ve deserved it. If an individual award comes afterwards, it’s a bonus for every player, for the team.”
In assistant coach Mauro Biello’s mind, there is no question: Di Vaio has been more than crucial to the Impact’s success, and he called him the “League and team MVP.”
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“Everyone watches the games, but I see a 37-year-old guy who never says he won’t train,” Biello said. “He’s first to arrive, last to leave. He’s a great example for everyone, and that’s a little something that people don’t see but that we coaches do see. He wants to win at all costs, even if it’s a 3-v-3 scrimmage.”
As was expected, Di Vaio will play without best friend Alessandro Nesta, who has been officially ruled out for this weekend. Moreover, Montreal native Patrice Bernier has missed none of the four meetings between TFC and the Impact this season in all competitions but has struggled with various knocks, including a hip injury that has been restricting his movements.
“It’s not easy, because [Patrice] is an important player and we want him at 100 percent,” Biello said. “Sometimes, we’ll also need feedback from him to see how he feels after training so it helps our decision-making. We’ll see in the next few days and we’ll make a decision.”