MONTREAL – There are times when soccer drops in your list of priorities. Marco Di Vaio is currently going through one of those times.
A family issue required Di Vaio to go back to Europe earlier this week, and head coach Marco Schällibaum says he’s preparing this Saturday’s game against FC Dallas at Stade Saputo (7 pm ET, watch on MLS Live) as though his star striker won’t be available.
Di Vaio actually asked Impact president Joey Saputo for a leave of absence prior to the 4-0 defeat at New York Red Bulls, and while Saputo said on Wednesday that Di Vaio was expected back the next day, he was nowhere to be found at training on Thursday morning.
“You never know, but I spoke to him [Wednesday] and, you know, there are more important things than football,” Schällibaum told reporters. “I extend my thoughts to him. I understand this situation. We won’t force anything. He has more important things to do. We’ll miss him on the field if the situation stands, but we have to work along with this. I trust the others.”
Di Vaio is enjoying a great second season in MLS, scoring 11 goals and providing one assist in 18 games on his way to this month’s AT&T MLS All-Star Game.
“Whenever you lose a player like that, it’s only normal that it affects everyone around,” Impact sporting director Nick De Santis said on Wednesday. “It’s another opportunity for someone else to step in.”
The question is: will it be a midfielder or a forward? Schällibaum started a Daniele Paponi-Andrew Wenger strike partnership only once this season, in Montreal’s 6-0 win over Toronto FC in the Amway Canadian Championship. Then again, the two forwards hardly got to develop their chemistry in a match situation as Paponi went off injured in the 36th minute of that game.
Could Schällibaum be tempted to use only one striker, say Paponi, against Dallas? The Swiss coach was typically mum on his plans, but didn’t rule out this possibility.
“I can’t tell you everything, but he could indeed [play] in our earlier system, but also in a more offensive system with attacking wingers, 4-1-4-1 or 4-3-3. It depends on the wingers you put out there. I’m flexible. I’ll think about it today and tomorrow, and get some good ideas ready for Saturday.”