FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – The unstoppable force meets the immovable object on Sunday night at Gillette Stadium when the Montreal Impact’s Eastern Conference-best offense runs straight into the New England Revolution’s league-leading defense.
Steering the ship for Montreal is the ageless Marco Di Vaio, who at 37 years old tops Major League Soccer’s scoring chart with 15 goals. The Italian striker has become the focal point of the Impact’s attack, having scored or assisted on 41 percent (17-of-41) of the club’s goals this season.
“He’s the leading goal scorer and for me, one of the best strikers in the league,” said Revolution head coach Jay Heaps. “He just always has a knack and an ability to find a little bit of space. And when he does, he’s clinical. They know how to get him the ball where he’s going to be dangerous.”
Di Vaio is most dangerous when playing off the back shoulder of defenders, springing on to through balls and passes played over the top, running in behind the backline. Throughout his 20-year career spanning several clubs in Italy, Spain, France and now MLS, Di Vaio has become an expert at riding the line.
Of course, consistently toeing that line comes with the danger of being caught offside, something Di Vaio has been whistled for a league-high 55 times this season. That’s an average of more than twice per game and 26 more times than the next man on the list, Seattle Sounders FC’s Eddie Johnson (29).
But as Di Vaio’s opponents have often discovered, he needs to beat the trap only once in order to inflict damage. That’s why the Revs will need to be at their best for the full 90 minutes on Sunday night.
“He just runs that line so well,” Heaps said. “So you have to be smart and defenders have to have their heads on a swivel and be prepared that if the ball goes over the top, there’s a good chance he’s onside. Even though he may be offside, he makes it seem like he’s going to be onside every time.”