On Friday, Marco Di Vaio announced his retirement from professional soccer, ending an outstanding, 22-year career in Italy and in Major League Soccer.
I could dedicate an entire article to what the striker meant to the Montreal Impact soccer club, that will be for another day, though.
Di Vaio undoubtedly took a step back this year. Everyone knew there was no way his 38-year-old was going to replicate his 20 goal 2013 campaign, but he was still an integral part of the Impact this season.
So who will fill the void left by MDV, on and off the field?
With Di Vaio leaving, the Impact are left without a poster boy for the first time…ever.
MDV arrived in Montreal midway through the club’s first season in MLS and his name has been synonymous with the Bleu, Blanc, Noir ever since.
Who will step up and take his spot? The Impact don’t really have another big time player.
One could make a strong argument for Designated Player Ignacio Piatti. The Argentine is now the team’s most exciting player, however, he’s not as recognizable has Di Vaio.
Other candidates would be Justin Mapp, Jack McInerney or Felipe, but for now, the Impact are left without a ‘face of the franchise.’
Each MLS team is allowed to have a maximum of three Designated Players (or ‘DP’s.) These DP’s contracts are not counted towards the team’s salary cap, leaving management to spend as much as they want to sign world-class talent. Some notable past and present DPs are David Beckham, Landon Donovan, Kaka and Frank Lampard.Sep 10, 2014; Montreal, Quebec, CAN; Montreal Impact midfielder Ignacio Piatti (10) celebrates with teammate Marco Di Vaio (9) after scoring a goal against the Los Angeles Galaxy during the first half at Stade Saputo. Mandatory Credit: Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports
The Impact have had pretty decent luck when it comes to picking Designated Players. Over their three years of existence in MLS, they have signed three players to DP contracts – Marco Di Vaio (2012-2014), Hernan Bernardello (2013-2014) and Ignacio Piatti (2014-).
But with Di Vaio leaving, Piatti will be the sole Designated Player. Sure teams can roll with one DP, D.C. United did this year and they ran away with the Eastern Conference.
In truth though, as a fan, it is always more enjoyable when you can get excited about a player. We were excited about Di Vaio, and Piatti and Bernardello, so why not bring in another one?
With Di Vaio leaving, the Impact will be a bit shorthanded at the striker position.
Not counting Di Vaio, Montreal has three forwards on their roster, Jack McInerney, Santiago Gonzalez and Anthony Jackson-Hammel.
Jack Mac is the most likely candidate to take over the #11 role. He’s got a solid resume – 32 goals in just over 100 games – and also brings a good deal of experience. Safe money would be on him getting the majority of starts next year.
After McInerney, though, it’s wide open. Gonzalez was highly touted by Impact management, but failed to impress and was loaned to his native Uruguay midseason.
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As for Jackson-Hammel, he’s shown flashes of brilliance and signs point to him having a bright future, but he’s still a few years away.
So one would expect Montreal will be looking for a new striker come the January transfer window.
Over the summer, the Impact confirmed they were in talks with Canadian striker Olivier Occean. However, I really don’t think they will sign him, as the Impact need an ‘impact’ player to replace Di Vaio up front.
I predict this new striker will be a DP and this new DP striker will take over the ‘poster boy’ role voided by Di Vaio. What I’m trying to get at is, keep your eyes and ears open, because the Impact are primed to make a big signing.
Will they play him?
When a star player retires, the coach usually doesn’t factor in to the story at all. Maybe he says some nice things about the departing in a press conference and that’s about it.
In the case of Marco Di Vaio, though, head coach Frank Klopas is left in a rather awkward situation.
Since pretty much June, the Impact having been building for the future. They have given young players a chance to get some serious first-team minutes and have featured a variety of different formations.Mar 29, 2014; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Montreal Impact head coach Frank Klopas gives forward Marco Di Vaio (9) a kiss for scoring goal during the second half to tie the game against the Philadelphia Union at PPL Park. Game ended in 1-1 tie. Mandatory Credit: Jim O
So now that we know Di Vaio won’t be here when the 2015 Season Opener rolls around, how does Klopas use him?
It goes without saying that MDV will start his final home game, October 25th against D.C. United and he will probably be subbed off late to a standing ovation. But there are still three games before that final hurrah at Saputo Stadium.
With Di Vaio not returning, could Klopas sit him so strikers McInerney and Jackson-Hammel can get some playing time?
After all, that’s what they’ve been doing pretty much all season, building for the future.