Saputo: Impact has not made a final decision on Schallibaum’s future with the club By Mike Wyman Posted on November 5, 2013 1 0 626 Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Joey Saputo, left, and Nick De Santis PHOTO: MIKE WYMAN In what was billed as a postmortem to the Montreal Impact’s 2013 season, club President Joey Saputo and team technical director Nick De Santis spoke to and with the media for about 45 minutes this afternoon. Given Friday’s Sports Illustrated assertion that recently retired defender Alessandro Nesta had been handed the reins for next season, the bulk of the conversation centred on the matter of head coaches. “I’m happy to tell you that we achieved our prime objective, namely to take part in the playoffs, and as a bonus, to take part in the CONCACAF Champions League thanks to winning the Canadian Championship. But after a first half of the season that was exceptional, the second half of the 2013 campaign was less than acceptable,” said Saputo in his opening remarks. “Even if we did reach our goal, I’m disappointed in the way we got into the playoffs. Since we were in the chase for the first place in our conference until the month of August I didn’t think I’d have to watch to see if three other teams would lose after we were defeated in Toronto to find out if we would qualify or not. While we had our fate in our hands we were not dominant late in the season, particularly at home,” he continued before apologizing for the Impact’s final game. “And our performance in Houston last Thursday, especially our behaviour at the end of the match, was not worthy of the Montreal Impact,” he said, referring to the mass confrontation and multiple expulsions that ended the Impact’s playoff participation. “On behalf of the team I would like to say I’m sorry to our supporters following our conduct in Houston. A particular apology on my behalf to the MLS family for the way we conducted ourselves in Houston last Thursday night. This is not the image we want to project. There was a lot of frustration but that does not excuse such behaviour.“ Saputo cited a number of positives to the season mentioning that, in only the team’s second season, the Impact accumulated more points than any other Canadian MLS team has and that the 50 goals registered was good for second in the Eastern Conference. An average attendance of 20,603 put the Impact in fourth place among MLS teams and the fans’ enthusiasm made Saputo Stadium one of the more difficult pitches for visiting sides to play on. When it comes to our head coach,” Saputo continued, bringing up the hot topic of the week. “We have not yet come to a decision. It is too early to say if Marco Schallibaum is the man for the job in 2014. We had an excellent discussion with Marco yesterday, but we do not want to rush to judgement. Marco is a passionate coach who allowed the group to experience both the best and the worst but the important thing is that we realize we need to continue to improve this team and what we need to keep working to see how that can be done. “We will continue analyzing the situation over the next few weeks,” he continued before denying that anyone but Schallibaum was making the in-game decisions this season. “I would like to specify that. All through the season, the choice of players dressed and starting matches, substitutions and all other technical decisions of that type were taken by Marco and his coaching staff and I’m insulted that people would think otherwise.” Joey Saputo, left, and Nick De Santis PHOTO: MIKE WYMAN When Schallibaum was tapped to run the Impact, it was stated that he would automatically be renewed should the team make the postseason. At one point in the season it was stated that he had been made an offer for next year and that the ball was in his court as to his future with Montreal but, as the team went down to defeat after defeat as the schedule drew closer to its conclusion, the club said that getting into the postseason did not necessarily mean that the Swiss Volcano would be returning. Aside from one questioner who enquired as to whether or not Andres Romero was returning, which De Santis replied to by recalling that the Argentine had shown some good flashes in his early games with the club — and had become a first-time father with his spouse and newborn twins remaining at home — then reminding the assembly that Romero was still only 23 years old, the rest of the discussion centred on the convoluted coaching situation. “It’s good to know that Marco wants to come back, that he likes the city and likes the team, but we have to be concerned with the long-term well-being of the team,” Saputo said when reminded of the statement that the ball was in Schallibaum’s court as to his return for 2014. “And if we can review all the positives and negatives with him and we’re on the same page, we’ll certainly continue but I do not want to make an impulsive decision. I want to take the time to analyze. As you know it was a difficult year, we started well and finished poorly and it’s important to find out why. I want Marco be a part of those discussions and afterwards we’ll see if it is worth continuing or not. “We had an excellent day yesterday. We reviewed a lot of things. Whether it is on his part or on my part, I don’t think we’re ready to make the decision yet.” Asked about the Nesta rumour, Saputo said, “I was surprised to hear it. There are so many rumours coming out and some of them are just so funny. First of all, Alessandro doesn’t have his coaching certification and I don’t think he wants to go directly from playing to coaching. We never spoke to Alessandro about the job so I don’t know where those rumours come from. “We aren’t using any scientific criteria,” Saputo said when asked what guidelines he was going to use to determine the occupant of the coaching position. “After the season is over you want to let things calm down a bit. You don’t make a decision two days after the end of the season to say ‘We’re happy or we’re not happy’ I think we’re maturing as an organization. We don’t want to make quick decisions. I want to hear Marco out with regard to what went wrong in the second half of the season, what needs to be improved, can he improve it and does he feel comfortable improving them. You can’t just pinpoint that it is one criteria or another.” As the questions continued it emerged that while it has yet to be determined whether Schallibaum will be back on the sideline in 2014, the Swiss head coach will be paid for the season. “If the contract is written in such a way that he’ll be paid in 2014, he’ll be paid in 2014. For me the important thing is to have the right people in the right places, whether it is players, coaches or anybody else in the organization. If we have to pay him, we have to pay him,” said Saputo. If it should be decided that Schallibaum will not be returning, could the Impact end up with three head coaches on their payroll for the 2014 campaign — Jesse Marsch, who signed a three-year deal as the club’s first MLS gaffer, parted ways “amicably” with the team almost exactly a year ago, was on the payroll this season and is due his salary for the next, Schallibaum and the man who would be selected to take over from him? Either the question itself or the continued discussion of the same topic seemed to touch a nerve. “So what?” Saputo asked. “Even if we have five coaches it doesn’t matter. Why does it matter to you? Are you paying the payroll?” After some back and forth as to the pertinence of the question Saputo concluded that “It doesn’t really matter whether we’re paying Jesse or we’re paying anyone else. At the end of the day the important thing is today and where we’re going tomorrow and it really doesn’t matter whether we’re paying five coaches, 10 coaches or whatever the case may be. It doesn’t matter.” Tomorrow afternoon the players will be available to the media at Saputo Stadium. So will present (and possible future) head coach Marco Schallibaum. Odds are, the topic of next year’s head coach will resurface.