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Butler: Patience urged following Di Vaio debut with Impact

Noel Butler
6/29/2012 7:51:36 PM
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After spending the day relaxing at home, one of Serie A's most consistent goal scorers of recent seasons arrived at Saputo Stadium to little fanfare and the minimum of fuss Wednesday evening. 

Whilst Marco Di Vaio's wife and children remained in Florida enjoying their summer vacation before joining him full time in Montreal next week, Di Vaio's step brother and a very good old friend who had just played in Miami with Lionel Messi at the Bacardi World Soccer Masters did make the journey up to take in his Impact debut.

A proud Roman, the fiercest of competitors, Di Vaio's Major League Soccer bow won't sit alongside his more memorable performances since beginning his professional football journey as a fresh faced 18-year old with SS Lazio.

"It was disappointing for him of course when you debut with a new team you're always hoping for a positive result especially at home. What's most disappointing for him was that the team didn't get a result," Nick De Santis told TSN.ca as the club's post mortem began for what was the Impact's worst performance in this, their maiden MLS season.

With Di Vaio having spent less than a fortnight training with his new club, De Santis urged patience as the ex-member of the Italian Euro 2004 squad properly assimilates himself amongst his new team mates and comes to terms with the vast chasm in playing styles between MLS and Serie A.

"It's only his first game and we need to be very patient," said De Santis. "I think the first 15 minutes we had a flow to our game and you saw the runs Marco made. He put in a good ball for Davy Arnaud and his understanding and timing for finding the right moments is very good.  There was good ball possession and we were able to find him early on.

"Afterwards his timing was good, his runs were good but overall our ball possession was very slow. The team looked tired which is understandable to a certain point. It was our third game in the week, we spent a lot of energy against Houston and we had the trip to Los Angeles. We don't want to make excuses, Toronto are in the same position.

"Marco wanted it to be a good result for the team, the fans. He said physically he tried to manage his game he didn't just want to waste everything. He says it was good for him playing."

Although for the vast majority of his career Di Vaio played in Italy, he spent time in La Liga with Valencia and in Ligue 1 at Monaco - whilst there he picked up both Spanish and French.

Now earning his football crust in a league where the vast majority of players are English speaking adds to Di Vaio's culture shock. Like in any group setting efficient and effective communication is key. Wednesday evening during breaks in play it was Patrice Bernier who Di Vaio would sound out.

De Santis takes the football philosophy approach.

"I'm not worried about players not understanding Marco," said De Santis. "He makes himself understood to anyone. His French is quite good, Spanish too. Anytime he speaks to a player they understand.

"Like everything else there has to be cohesion and understanding. Look at the ability of Werner, Felipe and Bernier now. They now know each others qualities and tendencies."

On Wednesday, Di Vaio was the Impact's only natural central striker. Not the football type to wonder into deep positions in search of the ball his effectiveness will be measured in his link up play. His team mates will need to be fully cognitive of Di Vaio's measured abilities in timing his runs across and behind the opponents.

In the opening exchanges it was clearly evident they were not on the same page. It took less than 10 minutes for Di Vaio to become verbally agitated with Felipe -- the one player more than all others who will now need to adapt his game - when he ignored a wide open Di Vaio. Felipe instead, opting for a shot on goal from the most improbable of positions.

"Marco's smart enough to understand who the players are who are going to put him in good situations. Felipe will be one of them. We were lacking Justin Mapp, who will be another player. Bernier too," De Santis pointed out, adding "Felipe can be that link to Marco Di Vaio."

Following the opening quarter hour, Toronto took complete control of the match. Dominating the ball and tactically overwhelming MLS's newest club it provided very few clues for the Impact's patrons as to getting a true sense of Di Vaio's undoubted qualities.

He was substituted very early in the second half. Having played four matches in 12 nights the Impact are back on the pitch Saturday night in Washington which gives Di Vaio an immediate opportunity to display his proper football self.

"That's up to the coaching staff," De Santis replied when asked if we can expect to see Di Vaio stay on the pitch for longer than the 52 minutes he lasted in his debut when the Impact go up against the current stand out team in the eastern conference.

An hour after the final whistle Wednesday, Di Vaio emerged from the dressing  room and exited Saputo Stadium much as he had arrived some five hours earlier - walking nonchalantly towards the player's car park with his step brother and his agent.

Intriguingly, World Cup winner and dear old friend Alessandro Nesta was alongside.

OPEN FOR BUSINESS

With the international transfer window now open and with injuries mounting, De Santis was cautious on if the Impact would be in the market place. "After every game we say 'where can we get better' but we really can't pin point exactly where we need to strengthen. With players like Rivas and Ferrari currently out we have to look at that. There is a lot of question marks but we've got to be careful and analyze everything to make the right decisions to really feel that we are bettering this team."

FROM EURO 2012 PUNDITRY BACK TO THE PITCH?

Maybe currently separated by five time zones and thousands of miles, it's not only Euro 2012 TV studios that links the BBC's Clarence Seedorf with ESPN's Michael Ballack - according to recent reports, a Montreal Impact jersey does too. When asked if the club were currently in negotiations with either player, "No" was De Santis' single word response. With the Euro 2012 Final Sunday don't expect any change. "No further discussions," De Santis emphatically added.

FOOTBALL ROYALTY IN LA BELLE VILLE

Twitter was agog Wednesday night when Alessandro Nesta was spotted in a corporate loge at Saputo Stadium. "He's best friends with Marco Di Vaio and he wanted to come watch his debut for the Montreal Impact," De Santis explained. Nesta had been in Florida to participate in June 23rd Bacardi World Soccer Masters, "He spoke about it, said he had a great time especially playing with Messi."

Recent rumour mongering placed the two-time UEFA Champions League winner taking in the Montreal sights and sounds with De Santis a few days ahead of June 10th Canadian Grand Prix  was laughingly dismissed by the Impact's Sporting Director.

"I can confirm that I was lying down on my couch with my son, watching a soccer game."

Much informed opinion of late places Nesta in Toronto. Those voices got official confirmation early Friday afternoon when Paul Mariner spoke on the subject following today's practice. It's not inconceivable their bitterest MLS rival on the pitch may shortly become a rival off it for Nesta's services.

"Now of course if you take it we've allowed 29 goals in 16 games, when you look at Alessandro Nesta and what he is as a player of course we look at it and try to think about what it would look like with Nesta." De Santis guardedly stated before reminding, "He came to Wednesday's game with the intention of watching his friend play."

"We got to meet him, he's a great kid and we'll see where this takes us."

Over to you Toronto.

Noel Butler

Noel Butler


Noel Butler is an analyst for TSN's soccer coverage and his blog can be read on TSN.ca. You can follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/TheSoccerNoel and listen to his radio program oranges@halftime on TSN Radio 690 Montreal.

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