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Slush and cold expected as Impact move outdoors to play host to Columbus

04/11/2013 05:27 EDT | Updated 06/11/2013 05:12 EDT
MONTREAL - Bad weather may leave the pitch at Saputo Stadium in a mess when the Montreal Impact play their first outdoor home game of the Major League Soccer season.

Environment Canada predicts that about 15 centimetres of snow and ice may accumulate in the city on Friday. That could make for slushy, rainy conditions with a high of 7C when the Impact play host to the Columbus Crew on Saturday afternoon.

It won't bother veteran striker Marco Di Vaio, who played in all sorts of rain, snow and cold during his 13-year career in Italy's Serie-A before he joined the Impact last season.

"In winter — in November, December or January — you can have days when it's zero or minus-something or even have some snow," the 36-year-old former Bologna forward said. "It's not too much of a problem.

"It's nicer to play when it's sunny, but we'll adapt."

The Impact were slated to train on their home field on Thursday, but opted to move to an indoor pitch to spare the Saputo Stadium grass any more damage than necessary.

The first-place Impact (4-1-0) will be looking to rebound from their first loss two weeks ago in Kansas City as they take on Columbus (2-1-2) in far from ideal conditions.

Moving back to the domed Olympic Stadium, where they played their first two home games of the season, is not an option on short notice.

And for now, no one can say for sure what conditions will be like or even if the game won't have to be postponed if it gets too bad.

"I can't guarantee that," said sporting director Nick De Santis. "Depending on how much snow will be on the field, that will be a game-time decision as well.

"In the end, Mother Nature will take her course and we'll deal with whatever comes to us."

The Impact got an unexpected break in their schedule when their game last Saturday in Los Angeles was postponed to October to allow the Galaxy to concentrate on CONCACAF Champions League play.

That left time for former AC Milan defender Alessandro Nesta to resume practising with the team, and he may be ready to return after missing two games with a sore groin.

Di Vaio worked on his own for two days this week to recover from soreness in his legs and said he will be fit for Saturday.

The Impact have also been breaking in two newcomers. The 19-year-old midfielder Maximiliano Rodriguez joined them on loan from the Argentinos Juniors club and Di Vaio's former Bologna teammate Daniele Paponi has been in a camp on a try-out.

De Santis said he wants to keep Paponi but needs to work out details of a loan agreement with Bologna and make the signing fit in the team's salary cap.

The 24-year-old was a highly touted teenager in Italy, but he struggled to crack the starting 11 as a pro. He has looked sharp in training with Montreal, however.

"He's played at a very high level and you can tell he has big motivation to recharge his career," De Santis said of Paponi. "Things haven't gone well for him in the last couple of years."

The Impact are thin at forward.

The stocky Di Vaio, whose strength is getting open for quick attacks, is backed up by 2012 first overall SuperDraft pick Andrew Wenger, a big striker who is aggressive around the goal. They sometimes also use the small and speedy Sanna Nyassi up front.

De Santis said Paponi brings different skills.

"He's more of a back-to-the-goal forward, even though his movement's good and he has a lot of energy," he said. "He's a different type of player who will challenge for balls in the air, who can hold up balls and let the team come up. In different situations in games, I think he can be useful."

He should have no trouble fitting into a club that already has Italians Di Vaio, Nesta, Matteo Ferrari and Andrea Pisanu on the roster, and three other players as well as head coach Marco Schallibaum and assistant Mauro Biello who speak Italian. That's not to mention De Santis and team president Joey Saputo.

Paponi's arrival does not look good for Wenger, the Lancaster, Pa., native who has been used three times as a substitute for a total of only 49 minutes this season. He has yet to put a shot on goal.

"It's a challenge," Wenger said. "He's a very good player who will push me to play better, and that will make me a better player."

The 22-year-old denied a report this week that he had asked for either more playing time or a trade.

Wenger made 23 appearances, including seven starts, as a rookie in 2012. He had 20 shots in 823 minutes and scored four goals.

"Certainly I want to play more," he said. "It's a challenge I'm working through.

"I've always been working to get more playing time. I'm in no rush."

Note to readers: This is a corrected story. A previous version incorrectly stated that DiVaio joined the impact in June.

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