From the moment the final whistle blew on the Montreal Impact's playoffs run with a 3-0 loss to the Houston Dynamo on Thursday, there have been rumors about the future of head coach Marco Schällibaum.
To this point, no word has come from the club itself on its direction, but on Saturday the plot thickened. Sports Illustrated's Grant Wahl is reporting that freshly retired Impact defender Alessandro Nesta is to take the reins at Stade Saputo.
The Impact declined to comment on the report when contacted by MLSsoccer.com on Saturday afternoon.
Swiss manager Schällibaum took over the Impact ahead of the 2013 season, replacing Jesse Marsch. He installed an offensive-minded system, and the side finished with the second most goals in the Eastern Conference (50), spearheaded by 20-goalscorer Marco Di Vaio. The Impact posted a 14-13-7 record and earned an inaugural playoff spot in just the club's second season in MLS.
But, despite being on top of the standings a various points throughout the season, including as late as the second week in September, the club slouched into the playoffs with a 1-6-1 record down the final stretch. They managed just two goals in their final five matches.
Then, on Thursday, they were thumped by the Dynamo in the Eastern Conference Knockout Round game. Schällibaum made some unexpected lineup decisions – such as starting Nelson Rivas, who had not played a minute all season, for the injured Nesta – and the Impact suffered a late meltdown that saw Rivas, Di Vaio, and Andres Romero all ejected before the match was done.
Nesta, a longtime star for Serie A club AC Milan and a World Cup winner with Italy in 2006, joined the Impact midway through the 2012 season. Even at 37, he was an integral part of their success: The Impact were 12-6-5 with Nesta in the lineup, 2-8-2 without (including the playoff match).
He announced in mid-October that he would retire at the end of the season but adding, "I want to get into coaching. We'll see what level, but I feel that it's something that I can do."