Davide Chiumiento must play.
After setting up all four of his team’s goals in the last two matches, the Swiss-Italian would be a certain starter on most teams, but in all likelihood he won’t be on the field for the Vancouver Whitecaps at kick-off against the New England Revolution on Saturday.
With Chiumiento’s team riding a three-game Major League Soccer winning streak, during which he has played just eight minutes, the situation is so bad that one reporter asked the player following Wednesday’s 3-1 win over FC Edmonton in the Canadian Championship if he thought he’d be on the plane to New England.
To reiterate, this was an hour after he’d just set up all three goals in a 3-1 win.
“Yes,” Chiumiento said, indicating that he’d be travelling with the team. “After three games [not starting] in MLS, I would like to play one.”
But will he get that chance? Omar Salgado was rested on Wednesday, and his spot on the left is assured given his fine recent form. Sebastien Le Toux came on and scored two goals on Wednesday, so he won’t be dropped.
There is a possibility Le Toux could be moved to centre forward, with Chiumiento slotting in on the right, but given the team’s recent MLS success, it’s difficult to imagine head coach Martin Rennie tinkering too much.
It’s safe to guess one of Eric Hassli or Camilo will lead the line upfront, flanked by Salgado and Le Toux.
Given the style Rennie has adopted, and perhaps the word “style” is a bit liberal given the Scotsman’s propensity for functionality over flamboyance in his team selection, Chiumiento is a sort of odd man out.
Rennie likes athletes first and foremost, and of all the adjectives Chiumiento elicits, athletic must be one of the last that comes to mind. In some ways Chiumiento is a throwback to the days when talent alone was enough to go pro.
In that environment, pure skill, which Chiumiento has in abundance, was the greatest asset. But somewhere along the line, speed, strength and beep-test dominance became the Holy Trinity of team selection for modern soccer coaches.
Talented players without the physical attributes to play rugby were deemed “luxury players.” Sure, in certain situations, say against FC Edmonton, which plays in North America’s second tier, Chiumiento could be “accommodated.”
Against weaker opposition, or in matches where it’s anticipated Vancouver will have more of the ball, Chiumiento will play.
On the road, or in situations where matches will be tight, you can expect Chiumiento to play the position many “luxury players” have found themselves in throughout world football in recent seasons – centre bench.
There’s not much for fans to complain about with a five-game winning streak in all competitions, and while all coaches will say every win is as good as another, there’s no denying a win in which Chiumiento plays is a whole lot more entertaining than a win in which he doesn’t.
Martin MacMahon covers the Vancouver Whitecaps for Goal.com Canada.