Thanks to a near-perfect mix of dynamic youngsters and savvyveterans, Montreal Impact head coach Jesse Marsch has his side where fewexpansion teams dare tread - alate-season race for the playoffs. Here are a few keys to Saturday’s showdownbetween D.C. United and Major League Soccer’s most recent addition.
DON’T DOUBT DI VAIO
Fans shouldn’t be fooled by Impact forward Marco Di Vaio’sage. Though 36 years old, theformer Italian international isn’t the stereotypical elderly foreigner trying tohang on with brains and what is left of an aging body. Di Vaio is fast, and deceptivelyquick. The most recent evidence ofhis considerable pace came during Montreal’s shocking 3-1 win over San Jose,where after already having played 71 minutes, Di Vaio still had enough left inthe tank to blow past Earthquakes defender Jason Hernandez to earn amatch-clinching penalty kick and red card.
LEERY OF LAYOFFS
In Andrew Wenger and the aforementioned Di Vaio, the Impacthave a pair of players that are effective with their backs to goal. As each has become more familiar withthe midfielders behind him, Montreal’s attack has added a dangerous newelement. One-touch layoffs nearthe top of the box have frequently teed-up midfielders Lamar Neagle, Davy Arnaudand Felipe Martins in recent weeks.
COUNT THE CROSSES
When Montreal traded goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts to Portlandfor counterpart Troy Perkins on August 7, the Impact improved in one key area –shot stopping. Ricketts hadstarted to show his age and didn’t have the same reaction speed that saw himwin MLS goalkeeper of the year in 2010. Despite his shortcomings, the 6-foot-4 Jamaican was still ratherconsistent in handling crosses into his box. In the weeks since the trade, the Impact have had some tensemoments dealing with wide service from their opponents.