Sometimes I long for the days when sports figures were given great nicknames. I myself am going to try in my small way to bring that back. It is high time that we find an appropriate nickname for Montreal Impact striker Marco Di Vaio. He was brought over last year as the club’s very first designated player and showed flashes of what he is capable of. Now, at the beginning of his first full season with the team, he is regularly showing his skill. Before the game he was in 2nd place overall in league scoring with 9 goals. The Italian Stallion? The guy certainly has demonstrated that despite the fact that he is turning 37 next month he is a thoroughbred. A confident Di Vaio makes Montreal a tough team to beat.
As a team Montreal was coming off a poor showing on the weekend in Columbus losing 2-0. They are still in first place in the East with a slim one point lead over the New York Red Bulls. Though Montreal does have 3 games in hand. They would be trying to right the ship and continue their home unbeaten streak. This would be a test because Houston, who if they won this game would only be 1 point behind Montreal in the East, was unbeaten in its last 5 games on the road.
The home side was playing in a 4-4-2 formation and Italian striker Daniele Paponi was making a return after being out for a while with injury. As this would only be his 2nd game with the team it made sense to believe that he and Di Vaio would have some chemistry issues to work out. Such was not the case. The pairing of the two up front worked right from the beginning. Instead of defenses being able to focus on Di Vaio there were now two targets.
Also returning to the Montreal side was centre fullback Alessandro Nesta and coach Marco Schallibaum. They both were back after 1 game suspensions. Nesta is a stabilizing presence at the back with all his skill, smarts and experience. This has translated to the Impact being unbeaten in the 7 games Nesta has played in this season. Midfielder Sanna Nyassi and his blazing speed also were back as he had just returned from World Cup qualifying with Gambia.
It was a beautiful night for soccer and the home crowd was rewarded by a good start by the home team. Right from the beginning Montreal dominated the game. Scoring chance after scoring chance happened starting in the 4th minute and Paponi having a partial break on the left side. His shot from a severe angle was stopped by Houston’s busiest man, keeper Tally Hall. Then came chances in the 8th minute (Paponi) and the 13th minute (Nyassi), so you get the picture. Montreal finally capitalized on their chances by opening the scoring in the 14th minute when Brazilian midfielder Felipe scored his 3rd goal of the season. Patrice Bernier, filling in as captain for the still injured Davy Arnaud, was given time in the Houston end of the field and he spotted Felipe making a run. Bernier chipped a ball over the Houston fullbacks which Felipe ran onto and then toed the ball past an onrushing Hall.
This great start for Montreal was important for their confidence after such a poor outing. It then was time for Di Vaio to make his mark on the game. In the 14th minute he scored, but was deemed offside nullifying the goal and in the 19th minute he tested Hall with a shot that required a diving save. Di Vaio was showing that he is not afraid to shoot…from anywhere.
In the 21st minute a controversial call was made. It went against Montreal and it was a penalty shot. A yellow card was issued to Matteo Ferrari for a tackle on Giles Barnes inside the 18 yard box. What was controversial was that Barnes had already gotten the shot away when the foul occurred. Luck struck when Barnes skied the ball at least 5 feet over the bar. A horrible miss. It was a chance for Houston to calm the game down and maybe put a halt to the Montreal domination. The men in blue continued coming at the Dynamo and it was only because of the height and skill of keeper Hall that Montreal was not up 4 or 5 goals.
Di Vaio broke through with a 2nd goal for Montreal in the 32nd minute. It came off a miscue by Houston. Houston had a corner that was taken by Andrew Driver. It was cleared and Houston fullback Corey Ashe tried to play it back to his keeper, but he mishit it. Di Vaio took advantage of the mistake and led his team away on a 3-on-1. You do not give this guy this type of chance and not pay for it as Houston found out. He made no mistake as he calmly chipped it past Hall. Magic Marco? Di Vaio now has a goal in each of the team’s home games. The picture of consistency.
The 2nd half saw Houston understandably exerting more pressure on Montreal. They still really did not create any high quality scoring chances, though. In the back of your mind you had to think that with all these chances by Montreal if Houston was to manage a goal it would change the game completely.
Montreal’s best scoring chance in the 2nd half came courtesy of Di Vaio once again. In the 62nd minute Nyassi got the ball on the right and brought it down to almost the end line. He crossed it back towards the top of the 18 yard box to Di Vaio’s head. With lots of strength, Di Vaio beat Hall only to find the bar.
The game ended 2-0 and it was Montreal keeper, Troy Perkins’ 4th shutout of the season. Montreal also opened up a 4 point lead over New York with the victory.
Montreal’s next game is Saturday, June 29 against the Colorado Rapids at Saputo Stadium.
-On-Field Officials: Referee – Chris Penso
-Goals: 1st Half:
14th minute: Montreal – Felipe assisted by Patrice Bernier
32nd minute: Montreal – Marco Di Vaio
-Shots on Goal: Montreal – 10
Houston – 2
-Corners: Montreal – 4
Houston – 6
-Man of the Match: Marco Di Vaio
-Final Score: Montreal – 2
Houston – 0