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Nevio Pizzolitto voted #8 on USL best of the decade list


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# 8 – Nevio Pizzolitto

The Montreal Impact defense in the middle of the decade was arguably the most formidable in league history, posting three consecutive seasons from 2004-06 in which it allowed 15 goals in each over the course of 28 games. Pizzolitto was a large factor behind those efforts.

Having joined the Impact in 1997, it was not until the 2003 season that the Impact’s performance on the defensive side of the pitch began to turn heads. It was the first of a six-year run in which the team surrendered less than a goal per game in the regular season.

In 2004, the club’s staunch defense under the leadership of Pizzolitto missed the regular-season title by one point, but claimed the league championship with an impressive playoff run that saw them allow just one goal in five games. They finished the year with a 2-0 victory over Seattle at home for their first title since 1994. Pizzolitto received All-League recognition for the first time in his career for his part in the club’s performance.

The following season, the Impact’s repeat as the league’s best defense netted the regular season championship by an impressive 10-point margin with Pizzolitto earning All-League honors a second time. Seattle, however, avenged its championship loss from the year before by eliminating the Impact in Montreal with a shocking 4-3 aggregate series win in the semifinals.

Repetition became the theme as the Impact were again number one in defense in 2006, claiming another regular-season title and earning All-League honors for Pizzolitto for a third time. The Impact met their fate again in the semifinals, this time at the hands of national rival Vancouver, who, like Seattle, went on to claim the league championship.

Despite another good defensive performance in 2007, the league had caught up to Montreal, which finished third. Although Pizzolitto earned All-League recognition a fourth time, another third-place finish in 2008 may have given the appearance that perhaps the Impact dynasty had come to an end.

But that was not the case. While Montreal was steadily navigating its way through the 2008 campaign, it was also participating in the CONCACAF Champions League, having beaten Vancouver and MLS club Toronto FC for the Canadian Championship. Despite facing long odds, Montreal and Pizzolitto proceeded to surprise many with the club making a stunning run to the quarterfinals, posting an upset series win in the Preliminary Round and a shocking second-place finish in the Group Phase.

As they closed out the decade, the Impact were unable to repeat as Canadian Champions, but that only made the path easier as they went into the playoffs unencumbered by an additional competition and captured their third league championship.

Although Pizzolitto did not receive USL-1 honors in 2009, he received the ultimate recognition for his work over the decade when he was named the new team captain following the retirement of Mauro Biello.

Chris Economides’ Point of View

“He won’t win any popularity contests in Rochester – that’s for certain. When thinking of Montreal Impact, he has a deep history. Nevio is one of the names synonymous with Montreal. It seems like he has been around forever. He is a hard-nosed, in-your-face kind of defender that led the stingiest and staunchest defenses. When you think of Nevio, you think of quality, toughness and a great right hook.” – Chris Economides, Senior Director, USL First Division


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