MONTREAL – And the decision is … no decision.
Upset by the Montreal Impact’s collapse in the second half of the season, when they picked up 18 points from 17 games compared to 31 in the first 17, club president Joey Saputo and sporting director Nick De Santis announced on Tuesday that they have yet to determine whether head coach Marco Schällibaum will remain as head coach in 2014.
Speaking at a postseason press conference, Saputo and De Santis confirmed that Schällibaum, who will meet the media on Wednesday, wishes to stay on for a second season in MLS. But they also maintained that further analysis is required, as they don’t want to make an “impulsive” decision.
“It’s too early to say that Marco Schällibaum is the go-to guy for 2014,” Saputo said in a statement read in French. “We had an excellent discussion with Marco yesterday, but we don’t want to decide too quickly. Marco is a passionate coach who has enabled this squad to experience the best and the worst.”
Despite a disappointing end to the season, the Impact clinched their first-ever playoff spot in MLS – an accomplishment which, coupled to the team’s Amway Canadian Championship triumph, prompted Saputo and De Santis to award the team a score of 7 out of 10 for the season.
Coaching his team to the playoffs triggered an option, in Schällibaum’s contract, for a second year as head coach. Should he leave, the onus would be on the Impact front office to compensate him.
“If the contract states that he will be paid in 2014, he will be paid in 2014,” Saputo said.
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As for the identity of an eventual replacement, the name on everyone’s lips understandably was Alessandro Nesta’s, after Sports Illustrated’s Grant Wahl reported that the Italian legend would become Impact head coach next season. Saputo dismissed the report, saying there was “absolutely no foundation to the rumor” and that he had “never” spoken to Nesta about the job. (Wahl also retracted his report on Tuesday).
The Impact president also addressed the rumors of front office interference in lineup selection, which popped up after Montreal’s elimination in Houston on Oct. 31. Not particularly impressed, Saputo insisted that all technical choices this season were those of Schällibaum and staff.
“I am insulted that people would think otherwise,” Saputo said.