MONTREAL – New Montreal Impact head coach Marco Schällibaum’s mission is crystal-clear: He has to clinch a playoff spot.
And the 50-year-old Swiss thinks he can do so in style.
“I like attacking play, going for the win,” Schällibaum said in his introductory press conference at Stade Saputo on Tuesday. “Technically, it’s easier to move around with the ball than without the ball."
The Impact confirmed Schällibaum has signed a surprisingly short one-year deal, but with a twist – should the Impact make it to the postseason in their second year, the veteran manager will get just that: another year at the helm.
The challenge delights the former BSC Young Boys and Servette FC coach, who has no previous experience in North American soccer.
“I’m surrounded by people who are deeply passionate about this club and about football, like me,” he explained. “I love challenges. I know I’m entering something of a new world today, but I’m ready to fight for this well-organized and passionate club.”
Following Jesse Marsch's departure from the Impact, club president Joey Saputo and sporting director Nick De Santis had implied that they would find a European coach who would also act as an educator not only for the young players, but also for the more inexperienced members of the technical staff and Academy staff.
In the end, both men reviewed around 30 résumés, a process they swear they don’t feel like going through again. As often turns out, the first impression made a tremendous difference in the hiring process.
“It was important for me to connect with them,” Schällibaum said. “I felt that from the start.”
“Our criteria were quite simple,” De Santis added. “Philosophy, methodology, working method, preparation, vision. The very first time we met, he showed that he was a passionate, energetic and determined person. The soccer discussions sometimes lasted until the wee hours of the morning, and we saw things in a similar way.”
Schällibaum, holder of a UEFA Pro coaching license since 2002, will not be bringing a backroom staff with him. Impact Academy director Philippe Eullaffroy, as well as club icon Mauro Biello, will be his assistant coaches, succeeding Denis Hamlett and Mike Sorber.
Youssef Dahha and Paolo Pacione, for their part, will replace the already-departed Preston Burpo and Adam Rotchstein as goalkeepers coach and fitness coach, respectively.