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Coach Schallibaum calls it normal for Impact to delay decision on his return

11/06/2013 06:39 EST | Updated 01/23/2014 10:53 EST
MONTREAL - Marco Schallibaum isn't feeling sorry for himself as the Montreal Impact take their time to decide whether he will be back as head coach next season.

The 51-year-old's first season in Major League Soccer saw the Impact rocket into first place through the first four months of the season, only to come crashing down at the end.

The coach known as the Swiss Volcano said it is normal that team president Joey Saputo and sporting director Nick De Santis want to take a week or so to decide whether to keep him on.

"What should I do, cry all day?" Schallibaum said as he met with the media to review the 2013 campaign on Wednesday. " That's the reality today.

"Of course they're going to ask what happened in the last month of the season. It's normal. I'm not afraid that I have to answer them. If I go in there crying, I'll have no chance. I'll try to defend myself because I like what I'm doing. In the end, if I'm still here, all the better. If not, that's the life of a coach."

The Impact took positive steps under Schallibaum in its second season in MLS, improving from 12-16-6 and seventh place as an expansion team under American Jesse Marsch in 2012 to 14-13-7, good for fifth place and a berth in the playoffs.

They won the Amway Canadian Championship, although they were eliminated in the group stage of the CONCACAF Champions League. And star forward Marco Di Vaio, named the team's player of the year, scored 20 goals.

But after battling for first place into August, the team went into a tailspin in the final two months, going 1-6-1 down the stretch before a humiliating 3-0 loss in a single-game knockout playoff match last week in Houston, in which Di Vaio, Andre Romero and Nelson Rivas were all sent off.

Schallibaum met with management on Monday and will talk again. He expects to be in Montreal for up to 10 days before returning to Switzerland for the short MLS off-season before camp opens in January.

"I hope I find my house because it's been 10 months," the Zurich native said. "I want to spend time with my family and come back with strong feelings in January."

He got votes of confidence from two key players — Di Vaio and central defender Alessandro Nesta, the former Italy star who has opted to retire.

"It was a good season for the team because we did good work until the final two months," said Di Vaio. "We came so close to having a great season and we let it go.

"But this experience will help us for next season — to not make the same mistakes and to grow as a team."

Before answering any questions, Di Vaio apologized to the team and the fans for being sent off in Houston, when he got into a melee after Andres Romero kicked at a ball that was underneath a fallen Dynamo player. Both will be suspended for the first three games of the 2014 campaign.

"I'm a veteran and I lost my head," said 37-year-old DiVaio, who will be back next season.

A day after Saputo denied a report that Nesta would take over as coach, the former Italy international did the same, although he added he hopes to become a coach one day.

"I never spoke to the club to be the new coach," he said. "I didn't ask the club to be the next coach.

"Those rumours are nothing. Now I'll go on vacation. I don't know for how many months, I'll go to Miami to live there. For maybe one year, I want to stay at home, study. I want to see what can I learn and after maybe I'll try to coach. I don't know where, but I want to try for sure."

Schallibaum also denied a report that team management dictated to him which players would start the playoff game in Houston. It was an unusual lineup. Davy Arnaud wasn't dressed, and midfielder Felipe Martins only went in off the bench.

It was a painful blow to Arnaud, the team captain, a Texas native and one of the club's hardest working players.

"I was very disappointed I didn't play in the game," said Arnaud. "Sometimes decisions don't go your way.

"The coach and I had a good conversation that day. He explained his position and I totally respected his decision. I have a great deal of respect for him, but I also let him know that I didn't agree with it."

Arnaud's contract is up and he's not sure whether he will be back next season. De Santis has given no hint as to which players will return, although he expects most of squad back.

"In the next few days I'll meet with (management) and discuss where we go from here," Arnaud said. "As of this moment, I'm not 100 per cent sure."

Patrice Bernier, one of the Impact's top veterans, was also left out in Houston. Schallibaum said he would have used Bernier if he was available. But Bernier, who missed the regular season finale in Toronto the week before with a hip injury, said he was fit to play.

Mostly the Impact players felt it was a positive season despite how it ended. Left back Jeb Brovsky said it will help them next season.

"We've tasted a bit of what we can be as a club," he said. "We see what it takes to go to the next level in the playoffs.

"We started off well and everyone was very excited. We were pleased with ourselves, but you take your foot off the gas a bit and you see what happens. It was the best learning curve we could have as a club."

Defender Matteo Ferrari said the main lesson was learning to deal with the long MLS season.

"We can see all of teams that arrive in the playoffs and they are in better condition than they were in the beginning," he said. "For us, it was the opposite.

"So that's something where we can (improve) for sure."

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