The crowd at Stade Saputo rose to its feet just after the hour mark on Wednesday night, but it did not do so for any of the usual justifications.
Most of the time, that sort of emphatic response follows a well-worked goal. The odd substitution falls into that category as well, but the number of reasons to salute a player from the run of play dwindles after that mark.
Crossbars and near misses usually do not merit such lavish appreciation. Then again, this particular case – involving Montreal Impact forward Marco Di Vaio and a couple of pieces of sublime skill – warranted all of the adulation and quite possibly more.
The sequence started with a typically tidy piece of buildup work from the Impact. Felipe capped off that neat piece of play when he drove a low ball out toward Sanna Nyassi on the right. Nyassi cut inside and served the ball behind Di Vaio just inside the edge of the penalty area.
Di Vaio craned his neck and contorted his body to somehow meet Nyassi's service. The resulting header thumped off the right side of the crossbar. The rebound fell to Di Vaio near the top of the penalty area as everyone else stood still inside. He corralled the rebound with a touch to his right to bring it outside of the goal frame, paused for a moment to wait for it to hit the right height and then twisted his body to fire a half-volley back across the face of goal.
The sheer skill required to produce those two chances overshadowed the final outcome of the second shot fizzling by the post. And the savvy crowd in Montréal understood the significance of the display mustered in front of them.
“Is there anything this man cannot do?” TSN play-by-play man Nigel Reed asked. “Well, by the reaction from around Stade Saputo, you think he'd have just scored. He's getting a standing ovation and there's no goal. Remarkable.”
To be fair to both Di Vaio and his supporters, previous events laid the groundwork for this response. Di Vaio had already contributed one goal on the evening and the home side found itself with a two-goal lead at that point.
Di Vaio's 10th goal of the campaign offered a bit of variety from his usual darting runs behind the always unsuspecting back line, but it still captured the essence of why he offers so much to the Eastern Conference leaders.
Every opportunity – even one presented with a bow by a shoddy backpass – presents a genuine chance to score. Di Vaio raced into the Dynamo half and swept the ball forward toward the left side of the penalty area. He entered the penalty area on a diagonal from the upper left corner and then neatly clipped the ball over the onrushing Tally Hall to finish the move with aplomb.
The former Italian international has taken advantage of his fair share of openings for the Impact this season. His goals have combined with a measured deportment, a miserly shape and more than a little bit of tidy work on the ball to fire Marco Schällibaum's side up the table. His place in the midseason All-Star team should be a foregone conclusion. If not for his station in Montréal (a large city still off the map in MLS awards terms), he might even slip into the role of MVP favorite given his role in the revival.
Plaudits aren't really the driving force behind the 36-year-old's continued influence at this standard, though. He receives them from his adoring fans anyways, a sign of appreciation for his decision to continue his career in Quebec and persist for a second year with the club.
The crowd stood and saluted Di Vaio once more as he departed with two minutes to play. At this moment and after yet another impressive display, it proved no surprise at all.