MONTREAL — After a six-day trial period that saw Montreal Impact head coach Jesse Marsch and his staff evaluate 28 players, there were cuts in the offing.
It was somewhat surprising, however, that a few of the players who were dropped on Wednesday were such familiar faces. The Impact bid adieu to French defender and 2010 MVP Philippe Billy, ex-Timbers central defender Cameron Knowles, ex-Crew midfielder David Testo, midfielder Luke Kreamalmayer as well as forwards Pierre-Rudolph Mayard, Marco Terminesi and Canadian international Ali Gerba.
Testo had been with Montreal since 2007 and Gerba has 15 goals in 31 appearances with the Canadian national team.
“I wanted to see the players a little bit closer, in action on the field, but also to better evaluate who they are,” Marsch said in a statement. “If a player wants to be successful individually, he must also understand the reality of collective play while helping others to reach their potential. I did not have a lot of surprises during the camp. However, I saw little details that I had not seen before.”
Added sporting director Nick De Santis, “Those decisions are not easy to take, but we must look forward. The league that we are joining in five months is completely different and the challenges that we face are heavy. These players are fierce competitors who fought for the well-being of the team, but they are not figuring into our future plans. We want to thank them for their contribution throughout the last few years in second division.”
The departure of Gerba may come as the biggest surprise to many fans, many of whom saw the striker as the team’s main goal-scoring threat in MLS next season. Gerba had stints with the Impact in 2000 and 2004-05. His latest spell – from 2010-11 – saw him score 15 goals in 29 appearances for the club, including an impressive nine goals in 13 matches to push Montreal into the 2010 second-division playoffs.
Hampered by a bruised knee in 2011, Gerba was limited to two goals in 12 appearances. When he met Marsch on Monday to discuss his future, he knew exactly what was waiting for him.
“The meeting lasted a minute or so,” Gerba said in an interview with TVA Sports. “I then learned that I wouldn’t be part of his strategy. ... It wasn’t a decision taken in a week. I saw the signs. Montreal is my home and I will always remain a fan of the Impact. I came here and played with passion. I am, however, very adventurous, and I’ll let my agent take care of it.”
Further decisions on the remaining players from the 2011 Montreal Impact team will be taken over the course of the next six to eight weeks. Meanwhile, Marsch and De Santis will travel to South America on Friday for a 10-day scouting trip.