MONTREAL – “Legitimate” was how Montreal Impact head coach Marco Schällibaum described the club front office’s decision to further assess his situation before officializing his return at the helm in 2014, despite the automatic exercizing of an option for next season when Montreal qualified for the 2013 MLS Cup Playoffs.
Meeting with the Montreal media on Wednesday, 24 hours after club president Joey Saputo and sporting director Nick De Santis explained their reasoning, Schällibaum calmly agreed that the last months were disappointing after the Impact’s flying start.
So calmly, in fact, that when a reporter remarked that Schällibaum seemed oddly comfortable, the emotions kicked in – those of a man playing down the situation with a quip, but also of a man wishing deeply that he’ll be back in January.
“But what am I supposed to do, cry all day?” Schällibaum said. “This is our reality today. If I’m Joey Saputo or Nick De Santis, who’ve been here 20 years, I must ask what happened in the last months. I’m not afraid to face them. It’s completely normal. If I cry all day, I stand no chance. I’m standing up for something I like. Then, we’ll see.
“If I’m still here, that's good. If I'm not, that's the way it is,” Schällibaum continued. “But I'm not afraid. I'll find another way. But it hurts, because I was made very welcome here over the past 10 months by people that I like. If I lose them, I’m not happy. But that’s the way it is for a coach.”
This first year in MLS has been rewarding on both the human and professional levels for Schällibaum, who mentioned the long travels, the physical and organized aspects of the league and “the 100-miles-an-hour work without a break for 10 months” as valuable learning experiences.
“I always said that I like Montreal, this stadium with these amazing supporters, but the choice is not mine,” Schällibaum said. “I spoke from the heart [to the front office], and we’ll see what happens.”
Given Schällibaum’s situation, the players understandably sat on the fence, though most chose to insist on the positive sides of the season rather than on the last months. But the soon-to-be retired Alessandro Nesta elected to deliver a strong statement in the Swiss coach’s favor.
"Here, coach Schällibaum did good work, and you have to go in that direction,” the former Italian international said. “That’s my opinion.”