Latest Italian talent Paponi hopes to find his game in MLS with Impact
MONTREAL - It wasn't the best of times for Daniele Paponi to make his Montreal Impact debut.
The 25-year-old Italian came on as a substitute for the final 30 minutes of a dismal 2-0 loss to Toronto FC in the first leg of their Amway Canadian Championship series on Wednesday night.
Like his teammates, the former Bologna striker did little to threaten the Toronto goal.
"As a first game, it wasn't the best experience because we lost, but I felt good and I'm ready to go," Paponi said Thursday through an interpretor.
The five-foot-11 Paponi is the latest member the Impact's Italian connection, joining former Bologna players Marco Di Vaio and Andrea Pisanu as well as defenders Alessandro Nesta and Matteo Ferrari.
Coach Marco Schallibaum has not yet decided if Paponi will get more minutes when the Impact play host to the Chicago Fire in a Major League Soccer game at home on Saturday.
The Ancona, Italy, native is still working himself into shape after appearing in only three Serie-A matches, all as a substitute, this season. He got into only 18 games in the last three years with the Italian club.
But Montreal, which has him on loan until the end of the year, hopes he can become Di Vaio's partner on attack as a forward who can hold up the ball and feed his teammates.
"He is a good player," said 36-year-old Di Vaio. "He brings some vitality and strength.
"It's good for the team, not only for me, because he can help the team. He's young. I know Daniele for a long time. We played together and we know each other well. He can help us win some games."
Paponi sees his arrival in Montreal as a chance to revive a career that looked promising as a teenager when he played four times for Italy's under-20 squad but that stalled at the top professional level.
He talked to Di Vaio and Pisanu about playing in MLS before joining camp on trial. The club liked what it saw enough to announce last week it would keep him. His international transfer certificate arrived in time for the Voyageurs Cup game in Toronto.
"I played with (Di Vaio) for two years in Bologna, we were teammates and friends, so we know each other well," said Paponi. "When the opportunity arose I spoke to Marco and he said he really enjoyed his experience here.
"First and foremost, I wanted a chance to play. I spoke to my former teammates that are here and they told me it was a good team, a good league and a good place to live. But ultimately, it was a chance to play more often."
He said the biggest adjustment was language, as he speaks neither English nor French, but the soccer is coming along.
"Physically I don't feel 100 per cent yet," he said. "I didn't play much earlier in the year, but I'm starting to get my legs.
"I've got speed. I'm good at making runs. I can hold up the ball. And I think I can be a good help for Marco."
With both teams using mainly bench players, the Impact did not get a shot on goal against TFC. They will have a chance to redeem themselves at home in the return leg next Wednesday night.
Schallibaum said it was the first time he was disappointed in his team since taking over as head coach this season.
Midfielder Patrice Bernier, one of the few regulars to play, agreed.
"The last one was very disappointing, but we have a lot of games coming up so there's no time to dwell on it," said Bernier, from Brossard, Que. "You take the lessons learned and move on.
"Saturday, we're playing Chicago. We've had good success at home and we can get back on track."