Home MLS Montreal Impact Marsch: Impact’s first season “wasn’t good enough”

Marsch: Impact’s first season “wasn’t good enough”

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While the Montreal Impact’s top brass were holding their post-mortem on the 2012 MLS campaign, the players and coaching staff were on the pitch at Saputo Stadium, going through their paces in preparation for next Monday’s departure for Italy.

The team will train and play against Fiorentina and Bologna, both Serie A sides and the latter the club for whom striker Marco Di Vaio played before crossing the Atlantic this spring.

Their workout concluded, head coach Jesse Marsch and a number of his players recapped the Impact’s season and looked into the team’s immediate future.

“I think that the energy, effort and commitment that everyone showed from the top to the bottom was at a very high level and something to be very proud of but, in the end it’s a results-oriented business and for me, especially considering the way the season ended, it wasn’t good enough,” declared the first-year gaffer.

“There’s been a lot of positive from within. There have been a lot of positive things said about us and the way we’ve played,” he also ventured. “But for sure, moving forward the expectations and the demands have to be much higher and it starts with me.”

The learning curve is always steepest in a new function and, asked what he had learned in his initial season as head coach, Marsch mentioned leadership, communication, on-field tactics and managing a group.

“I’m proud of the progress the team showed up until the end,’ he said. “I think when the last couple games came we didn’t play our best so we have to retool this thing in the right way , know that we have a great core and push next year knowing that the expectations are much higher.”

Asked about possible areas of improvement he mentioned that there were a few things; mentioning that he might welcome “the addition of an attacking midfielder and maybe a wide player who has some soccer ideas. We have to find reinforcements for Marco and Andrew (Wenger) at times so we have some depth there,” he continued. “But the core of this group is quite good so we have to make sure whatever changes we make, whatever players we let go, we have to be real smart about it.”

A clearer idea of who does and does not figure in the Impact’s plans for the upcoming season and beyond will emerge once the team reveals the roster for the Italian sojourn. Players who will be listing Montreal as a soccer home in the past tense will not be on the trip.

Five members of the U21 team will be along and, according to Marsch, “We’re excited to be able to include them. It’ll be a great opportunity for them. It’s a little bit of a different kind of a trip because it’s in the postseason but we want to go there, put in good work, have a good mentality and use it as a springboard going into training camp.”

Midfielder Patrice Bernier, who went from watching from the sidelines to earning recognition as the Impact’s MVP and Most Active Player in the Community, said there were too many high points in the season to recall one as standing out above the others but if he had to pick one, “I’d have to say the five-game winning streak at home. We were on a roll and we had established a presence and a style in the league. The low point was seeing 15 minutes of playing time over six games. That was the toughest part of the season.”

While refusing to say that that this led to friction between he and Marsch or made him seriously rethink his decision to return to Canada, it was the cause of some confusion.

“After what they had said my role was going to be at the outset I went to not playing so that was confusing,” the team’s scoring leader said. “There wasn’t a conflict where we didn’t see eye-to-eye but they decided to change things up so you have to respect that. Not starting is one thing but not playing is another. On the personal level there was no conflict between us, just some questions about what was happening,” he continued.

If he could change one thing about the team before undertaking next year’s schedule Bernier stated that it could use “a concrete plan B on the road. Things went well at home, we had a style,” he said. “But the other teams adjusted and it’s not the same playing on the road as it is at Saputo Stadium. We have to find the techniques or strategies to give us something extra so we can pick up more points.”

The Brossard, Que. native was asked for his impression of the team’s performance.

“It evolved a lot in style and conformed to something we can say is our own. At the beginning we were competing but it was mostly through hard work and we were not as creative as in the second part of the season. Once we moved into Saputo Stadium we found more fluidity in our play, position, movement. We created a lot of chances,” he said. “With the arrival of our star foreign players, the Italian players, who brought a new step to the team and another level to the team and we were able to progress.”

While other players have more at stake in the trip to Italy, Bernier sees it as also being a chance to unwind after a long MLS season but with a bit of work involved as well.

“For the Italian guys, they’re just going home but for the rest of us there’s maybe a little bit of tourism but we also get to play two Serie A teams. Even if you’re in Europe you don’t get a chance to play two such high-quality teams.

“If we would have stayed around here, it’s routine. There’s nothing really to play for. You train but here’s not the same motivation. To go over there and say that we’re actually going to play and maybe somewhat prove ourselves against Italian teams then it’s a nice trip to have.”

Defender Hassoun Camara was pleased to hear that positive things were being said about him by the team’s front office while he was on the pitch.

Speaking in English and his displaying second-language skills, the French defender, who earlier this week expressed affection for everything Montreal has to offer with the exception of poutine, said, “My first wish is to stay here. I made good things here and I’m very happy here. I’m happy that the President and Nick (De Santis) are happy with what I did. My first wish is to stay here and we’ll see in the next week.”

Like Bernier, Camara was often on the sidelines looking on in the early going.

“I wasn’t in the team in the beginning and so, yes, I saw the transition. But it was normal — we are an expansion team and we had many players and we have to try many solutions on the field. It was not easy for the coach to find the solutions. He corrected the things well because we saw the result on the field. We won many games this summer and we saw a big difference on the field when Marco Di Vaio and the Italians came. They can build on that for the next year and I think it’s going to be much better.”

He’s also looking forward to the Italy trip and not only because it brings him within a short hop of his family in Paris.

“It’s going to be a good thing to play against teams like that because it is the top level in Europe. We want to be good there, to do good work and represent Quebec there. It’s not every day you get to compete against teams like that so it will be very, very good and we’ll be very happy to play against them.”

Italian striker Marco Di Vaio is not as satisfied with his season as most of the Impact’s fans are bound to be.

“I am not too pleased with myself because I wasn’t able to help the team as much as I wanted. For the first two months I had to learn the MLS game here and also deal with legal problems in Italy so it was difficult. But we can do better,” he said. “A good team makes the playoffs and I think we can challenge next season. Next season is important to us and we have to prepare for it. We have to realize we didn’t do well and that we can do well.”

Thrilled to be able to head back home and suit up for his new side against his former team he gratefully characterizes the game against Bologna as “a gift that both clubs have given me. I know everyone there and I’m very happy to go and play.”

Like more than a few who has followed his team this year, Di Vaio noticed the geographic weakness the Impact has to correct if it is to enjoy the improvement it hopes to show its second-year MLS fans.

“We have two teams, one that plays at home and another that goes on the road. We played well against New York, San Jose and the best teams in the league. When we play away from home we can lose to anyone. We don’t have the same confidence. We have to understand that we can play the same way on the road as we do at home.

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