Di Vaio to debut in '401 Derby'

The Montreal Impact's Designated Player Marco Di Vaio. (REUTERS)

The Montreal Impact's Designated Player Marco Di Vaio. (REUTERS)

KURTIS LARSON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:14 PM ET

TORONTO - With the Montreal Impact set to unveil Designated Player Marco Di Vaio against Toronto tonight, TFC's Paul Mariner made public his intention to unveil a player of his own this summer.

"We need a bossman," Mariner said following Tuesday's training at Downsview Park. "Someone who can patrol that back line."

After watching former bench boss Aron Winter fail to locate a quality centre back during his 18-month stint, recent late-game meltdowns have moved finding a defensive difference-maker to the top of Mariner's list.

"We have a problem with the centre of the defence," said Mariner, when reminded the summer transfer window has officially opened. "We've got a player in Doneil Henry (who has) absolutely everything to be successful, but he's a young player."

And with the Impact scoring in droves, based on Friday's training, it appears the club's new manager will pull the teenage centre back in favour of Logan Emory ahead of Toronto's first trip to the new Stade Saputo.

The Quebecers have scored eight times in their first two matches since moving out of the Big O and will receive a massive boost from Di Vaio, who scored 65 times for Bologna from 2008-2012.

"I feel comfortable with the system," Di Vaio told the Impact's official website. "My goal is to do everything I can to help my team (beat Toronto). I've been working really hard these past few weeks to be ready for this match."

Toronto has conceded seven times in three games under Mariner -- twice in the 90th minute or beyond.

Well aware of the Italian international's involvement in tonight's derby, Toronto's latest back four has apparently been restructured to contain a side that has looked unstoppable on its home ground.

"I expect him to be a Designated Player -- a difference maker," Mariner said of containing Di Vaio. "We've got certain plans that we've put into place ... We've got a lot of experience in place and hopefully they'll be able to see us through."

Despite taking part in first-team training this week, the club's staff confirmed Joao Plata will miss a second consecutive match with a hamstring strain.

Mariner confirmed the club's short bench will be padded with Nick Soolsma and Miguel Aceval, who will return following their arrests two weeks ago. He also struck down earlier reports that the duo were facing suspension or termination following a drunken altercation outside a Houston club.

"It was my decision," Mariner said of leaving the Dutchman and Chilean off Saturday's first-team and reserve game rosters. "We just felt it was right for team chemistry."

With each successive meeting more intense than the last, chemistry and unity could play a big role in shaping the outcome of the fourth edition of the "401 Derby."

The club's last met in the semifinal round of the Canadian Championship with Montreal head coach Jesse Marsch and then TFC assistant coach Bob de Klerk coming together along the touch line after the Reds secured passage to the final.

"I think they still have a bitter taste from that last game," Julian de Guzman said of the incident. "I'm sure that they want some type of revenge so we'll see what they're going to bring. They're on a good streak."

And, like every club in the league, well ahead in the standings.

"It's another tough MLS game away from home for us," Mariner said. "We've had a lot of games and a lot of travel. We've rested the boys up and they look pretty fresh ... We need to put 90 minutes together. I was preaching that to (the team) today ... Ninety-three minutes isn't good enough."

KICKOFF - TSN - 730ET

Marquee Matchup:

Torsten Frings vs. Felipe Martins

Toronto's German captain was as ineffective as we've seen him on the weekend, failing to cancel New England's Benny Feilhaber and do anything of note. Frings might be struggling to meet the demands of a league that forces its clubs to travel great distances. It's a battle between young and old -- players when at their best have proven to be two of the top central midfielders in the league. Martins, 21, a Brazilian who last played in the Swiss second division, has been a pleasant surprise in Montreal. Full of energy and confidence following a fast start, if Frings fails to raise his level, the kid will have his way with the Reds.

TFC KEYS

DEFENSIVE URGENCY: It's worth repeating: Toronto has conceded five times in the past three games off crosses. If TFC's back four continues to be spectators, they will concede more.

COMPLETE 90: Save their lone win of the season, the Reds haven't competed for a full 90 through three months. Should Toronto take a lead into the late stages, does anyone think it will hold?

MATCH FACTS

--Tonight marks the fourth of five meetings between the clubs:

April 7 - Impact 2 vs. TFC 1 (MLS)

May 2 - Impact 0 vs. TFC 0 (Canadian Cup Leg 1)

May 9 - Impact 0 @ TFC 2 (Canadian Cup Leg 2)

June 27 - Impact - TFC (MLS)

Oct. 20 - Impact @ TFC (MLS)

PROBABLE FIRST XI

Kocic, Morgan, Emory, Eckersley, Hall, Avila, Frings, de Guzman, Dunfield, Johnson, Koevermans


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