Marco Schallibaum’s future as coach of the Montreal Impact remains in limbo.
At a news conference Tuesday where it was thought that the fiery Schallibaum may be shown the door after a dismal finish to the Major League Soccer season, team president Joey Saputo said no decision has been made on whether the Swiss Volcano will be back in 2014.
And the answer may not come soon.
“We had excellent discussions with Marco (on Monday),” said Saputo. “But we have don’t want to make a decision too quickly.
“We will continue to analyse the situation in the coming weeks.”
Saputo denied a report that Impact defender Alessandro Nesta would be the new coach. He said he never discussed a coaching job with the 37-year-old Nesta, the former Italy and AC Milan great who retired as a player at the end of the season.
“I don’t know where that rumour comes from,” he said. “Alessandro has the qualities to eventually be a coach, whether an assistant or a head coach, in this league. But he’s barely finished playing.
“He has to go for his coaching license. But I think he does have the potential.”
Saputo and sporting director Nick De Santis met with the media to review the 2013 season, but they were either unable or unwilling to pass on anything concrete about the coach, where the team needs to improve or which players will or won’t be back next season.
He said management needs time to interview players and coaches before decisions are made.
Overall, the season was step forward from their expansion campaign in 2012.
The team finished 14-13-7 for 49 points, the most ever by a Canadian-based MLS club, and made the playoffs in only their second season. They also won the Amway Canadian Championship, although they bombed out in CONCACAF Champions League play.
Schallibaum has said he wants to stay on.
His contract was automatically extended through the 2014 season when the Impact made the playoffs, but Saputo said that won’t factor in on whether he keeps the job. The club is also reportedly still paying Jesse Marsch, the coach in 2012.
Schallibaum, a 51-year-old former Switzerland defender, was suspended four times for a total of fives games in his first MLS campaign, but looked to have his temper under control in the second half of the season.
Saputo remarked that the team did better on the field when Schallibaum was being suspended every other week than it did when he calmed down, but added there was surely no correlation between those factors.
The Impact shot out to a 9-3-2 start and were still in the hunt for first place in the Eastern Conference in August, but then went into a tailspin that saw them lose seven of their last nine games.
A dismal effort in a 1-0 regular season-ending loss in Toronto left them with the fifth and final playoff spot, but they were even worse in their single-game knockout round loss in Houston last week.
Not only did they lose 3-0, they had three players sent off, including midfielder Andres Romero for kicking at a ball that was underneath a fallen Dynamo player, and star forward Marco Di Vaio for jumping to Romero’s defence.
The incident in the final minutes of the match was one of the first issues addressed by Saputo, who called it an embarrassment.
“A particular apology on my behalf to the MLS family for the way we conducted ourselves last Thursday,” he said. “That’s not the image we want to project. There was a lot of frustration, but that’s no excuse.”
Di Vaio, a 20-goal scorer who is expected to be named the team’s player of the year on Wednesday, and Romero will each be suspended for the first three games of 2014. Defender Nelson Rivas, also set off in Houston, will be suspended for one match.
Romero became a target for fans for his frequent giveaways in midfield, and one could imagine committing a foul that causes the team president to make a public apology would mark the end of his stay in Montreal, but De Santis vehemently defended the 23-year-old Argentine.
“I get the feeling that a lot of you think that he’s not good enough, but I think Andres has a lot of potential,” said De Santis. “Everyone goes through a phase, an adaptation period, but Andres showed a lot of good things at the beginning of the season.
“And remember, he’s 23. If you look at our 20-to-23 year olds, he’s played at a high level. He needs to be mentally strong in certain situations. His wife had twins who stayed in Argentina. That plays a big part in your personal life. We have to see what his situation is with his family.”
Team management also wants to examine how playing in the Canadian championship and the Champions League affected its performance in MLS. The team looked physically and mentally drained at the end of the season.
“When a team slides like that, you ask many questions,” said De Santis. “For two moths we were hoping that the last game in Toronto wouldn’t be do or die.
“In the end, that’s where we were, and I don’t think we got there with a team that was hungry and ready to do anything to get into the playoffs.”