Team President Saputo made a brief appearance to award the Giuseppe Saputo Cup to Marco Di Vaio, voted the Player of the Year by the club’s season ticket holders and then gave way to Schallibaum who, as he has done all year, took questions rather than make an opening statement.
As was the case yesterday the queries concerned his uncertain future with the Montreal organization.
“I think it’s perfectly normal,” he replied. “When you have a season that stats well and finishes as poorly as ours did, there are questions that arise. Nick and Joey have questions and they need answers. I’m not worried, I have questions too.
“You have to say that the season as a whole was a good one. We may not have achieved everything we wanted but it’s normal. We’re going to have some serious discussions. It’s important for the future that the club move forward and that everyone is going in the same direction.”
“We have to be realistic,” he continued. “The last months were not good to be better next year and that’s why we’re taking the time to make sure we’re all going in the same direction.”
“My contract is not important,” he declared in answer to another question about his nebulous future with the Impact. “I’m not the most important person on the club. For me it is important that the club move forward. Then we’ll see. Maybe I’ll be here and maybe I won’t.
“I’ve always said that I like Montreal and I like the stadium with the extraordinary supporters but the choice is not mine to make,” Schallibaum continued. “I opened my heart and we’ll see what comes.”
He also denied feeling he had lost the support of team management during the course of the past season, saying, “No. Of course they were not happy and neither was I with the final match either was I. They were fine. They never applied any pressure.”
Schallibaum said that he had learned a lot about the North American game over the past season with one of the major differences coming in the intense scheduling in MLS.
“Ten months at full throttle with very few days off is something that I learned about this year. In Europe, you go for four months and then you have a bit of a break before coming back for four more months. You get a bit of recovery time that you don’t have here.”
Asked about his immediate plans, Schallibaum said that he’d be in Montreal for the next week or 10 days taking part in the Impact debriefing and then heads home to join his family in Switzerland.
“I hope I find my house,” he joked. “It’s been 10 months since I was there.”
After Schallibaum left the stage in the team conference area, players were brought out in pairs and trios to give their impressions. First out were Di Vaio and the recently retired Alessandro Nesta.
The first question went to Nesta and concerned the rumour that he had already been taped to relive Schallibaum. What are his plans for the next months?
“I never spoke with the club about being the new coach. I never indicated I wanted to be the next coach. They are just rumours. We have a coach. We have a second coach.” he said. “I’m going to Miami to live there. I’m going to study and see what I can learn and after, maybe I will try to coach. I don’t know where but I want to try.”
“I’m very happy,” he said when asked how it felt to be a former footballer. “Because my body is tired and I think it’s time to finish. Twenty years of high level, I was lucky. I won a lot of trophies and this time is the perfect time to stop. I’m going to start a new life with my family. Another job, I don’t know.”
Asked about his impressions of the season Di Vaio, began his reply by apologizing for the red card in the playoff loss and unpleasantness that occurred at the end of the team’s last match.
“First, I’d like to offer my apologies to everyone for what happened in Houston last Thursday. It was a difficult moment for the club. It was not a good thing on my part. I’m an experienced player but at that moment I lost my head and I’d like to apologize for that,especially to the fans who were watching. I do not have any excuses and I’d like to apologize,” he said before moving on to his impressions of the last campaign.
“Before that, it was a long season. It was a god season for the team because we did good work and it was only in the last month or two that things got complicated for us, for the team, for the coach. We were getting close to having a great season but we missed our chance at it,” he said. “But we can build on this experience to improve next season and not repeat the same errors. We, the players, the coach, the club, have to evaluate the season, see what we did well and what we did poorly.”
Captain Davy Arnaud did not play in the last match. He was asked how it felt to be left out of the lineup on Thursday.
“Disappointed is probably an understatement,” he said. “I think it’s only natural, not just for me but for any player. Sometimes decisions don’t go your way and you don’t have to agree with them.
“The coach and I had a good discussion and he explained his position,” Arnaud continued. “I told him I totally respected his decision, as I do him, but I also let him know that I didn’t agree with it and I think he respected that point of view as well. It’s part of the business and you move on from it.”
Asked about his plans for the next season, the Texas native said that his two-year contract with the Impact had run its course.
“In the next few days I’ll sit and meet with Matt (Jordan) and Nick (De Santis) and discuss where we go from here. As of this moment I’m not 100 per cent sure but I hope to have it cleared up in the next few days.”
Should the future leads him away from Montreal for 2014 and beyond, how did Arnaud feel about having been the first Montreal Impact captain?
“If this is gonna be it, it’s been a big honour, for sure,” he replied. “I take a good deal of pride in that and I felt we had a good group of leaders on our team from Day One and that was important for us, coming in as a brand-new franchise. I take a lot of pride in it and I’ve tried to hold myself to the standards that a captain should be held to. I think, for the most part, I’ve done a decent job, or done the job as well as I could have.”
Midfielder Justin Mapp proved top be among the most pleasant surprises this year, rebounding from a 2012 schedule that made him one of the fans’ favourite whipping boys. In 2013 he became one of the team’s most consistent performers.
“I’m not exactly sure of everything that’s being said here so far,” said the Missouri midfielder who has apparently not made great strides towards bilingualism since arriving in Montreal before continuing with his assessment of the season.
“Obviously it was kind of a tale of two halves of the season. We did so well for so long, at the top of the table at various points. Riding high and then struggled down the stretch,” he said.
“I don’t have an exact answer for why it happened but we just didn’t get it done,” he continued. “We didn’t score enough goals and you can’t always rely on your defence. Sometimes you’re going to give up goals. So it all boils down to the team and everybody involved.
“We played a lot of extra games in the Canadian Championship and who knows if that played a part in it, a lot of travel et cetera. We didn’t get it done down the stretch. We had every opportunity to clinch a top-three seed at various times. At the end of the day you sort of swallow your pride and see what you can do moving forward to hopefully not have it happen again next year.”
“Having said all that,” Mapp wrapped up, “there were a lot of positives from the year and I think the team can be proud of what it accomplished. It took a big step this year.”
Goalkeeper, Evan Bush, the only holdover from the 2011 NASL side besides defender Hassoun Camara to stay with the team through its MLS experience, has also come to the end of his contract with the Impact.
Asked whether his play in the Canadian Championship and the CONCACAF Champions League this year might have earned him a shot at a starting job for next year he replied in the affirmative.
“I think I played well enough to garner some attention in that regard,” he declared. “But at the end of the day, Troy (Perkins) played really well this season too. You can’t take anything away from what he accomplished and he did this year but at the same time, I think I’m ready to jump into that spot as well. Whether it be here or elsewhere, who knows? There are going to be a lot of discussions for both myself and Troy over the next few weeks, I’m sure, and we’ll see what happens then.”