KANSAS CITY, Kan. – The Montreal Impact will be represented in the MLS All-Star game for the first time on Wednesday with forward Marco Di Vaio and midfielder Patrice Bernier having been called up for the contest. Though the MLS All-Star game is an entirely new experience for them, both players know a thing or two about Wednesday’s Italian opponent, AS Roma.
During the Impact postseason Italian training camp last November, several players took the train down from Florence to Rome to catch the Capital derby between Lazio and Roma. Though Bernier missed the game, he still has fond memories of having played against Roma once during his playing days in Norway.
“I played Roma in the UEFA Cup with Tromso, but the only guys that are still here are (Francesco) Totti and Daniele De Rossi,” Bernier said. “We lost to them 2-1. Marco (Di Vaio) knows them quite well, so it’s going to be special.”
Di Vaio, who remains a Lazio fan to this day, was groomed at the Lazio youth Academy and had his professional debut with the Roman club at the age of 17. Now 38, the Rome native played numerous times against Roma during his career in Serie A.
He didn’t expect that he’d ever have another shot at them after making the move to MLS.
“I would never have thought of coming to Kansas and playing against an Italian team,” Di Vaio said. “It’s a really beautiful and fun experience that I want to make the most of.”
MLS All Star week has also given Di Vaio the chance to meet up with old friends, especially Roma captain Totti, who said on Monday that Di Vaio had tried to lure him to the Impact.
“We’ve spoken a bit and did some catching up on how things have been going at our respective clubs and in life in general,” Di Vaio said. “It’s been great to see him.”
Though usually a thorn in the Impact’s side during MLS regular season play with the New York Red Bulls, forward Thierry Henry said he really looks forward to teaming up with Di Vaio and Bernier. Di Vaio will likely partner with Henry in the attack at some point against Roma, as the two showed instant chemistry in training on Tuesday with the Italian setting up the Frenchman for a brilliant volley.
“It’s easy to play with Di Vaio; he’s the kind of forward you want to play with; you just have to find him, and then he’s got an incredible facility at finishing in front of goal,” Henry said. “At his age to way he moves and finishes is just extraordinary. Hopefully we’ll get a chance to play some minutes together.”
Having the opportunity to play with Henry is all still a bit surreal for Bernier, who vividly recalls watching Henry play on television with Arsenal in the English Premier League.
Moreover, the two players have now become friends.
“It’s been a while now that a nice friendship has emerged between us,” Bernier said. “We speak to each other pretty often.”
Henry explained that the friendship originated from the fact that he had been impressed with Bernier’s performances with the Impact and then expanded further because the two share the same mother tongue and similar ancestry.
“I always said that Bernier was one of the most important players in Montreal. He’s their catalyst in midfield and he’s a guy that I respect a lot,” Henry said. “He’s a quality player; he’s a footballer and the respect comes from that.
“Patrice has Haitian origins and I have Guadeloupe and Martinique origins; we like the same music and food -- we talk about those things as well. It’s a Caribbean thing.”