MONTREAL — A taste of being a head coach for the Montreal Impact's final 14 games this season has Mauro Biello wanting more.
It appears the Montreal native is close to having the "interim" tag removed from his job title and that he will be back with the Major League Soccer team next season.
"I've had discussions with (team president) Joey Saputo and things have gone well," Biello said Thursday. "Yes, I would like to be back as head coach and I feel that the club wants me to be back also.
"It's normal there's a process. We just finished the season on Sunday. It was tough being eliminated. The last few days were difficult."
Biello was part of a remarkable late-season run that saw the Impact finish third in the Eastern Conference and reach the semifinals in the playoffs, where they lost a two-game series 4-3 on aggregate to the Columbus Crew.
The 43-year-old Biello was in his fourth season as an assistant when he was promoted to interim head coach after the firing of Frank Klopas on Aug. 30. Between Biello's unifying influence on a struggling team and the arrival of international star striker Didier Drogba, the Impact went 7-2-2 over the rest of the regular season.
Montreal beat Toronto FC 3-0 in the knockout round of the playoffs for the first MLS playoff win in club history. The Impact won the opening game of the semifinals before bowing out in Columbus.
"I was so proud of the way we fought at the end and almost pulled it off," said Biello. "We could easily have just backed up and let their fans take over that game but we pushed until the end.
"You have moments that will stay with you for a while. The game against Toronto. The hype around it. The city behind us. The Drogba-Giovinco matchup. Those were special moments. It's a game I'll remember and a lot of our fans will too."
It was a remarkable season from the outset. It started with the Impact making an unexpected run the CONCACAF Champions League final, edging Pachuca of Mexico in the quarter-finals, Alajuelense of Costa Rica in the semis, and then taking a lead but finally bowing out to Mexico's top team, Club America, in the final before 61,000 at Olympic Stadium.
"What we did in Champions League was unbelievable," said Biello. "Not just the huge crowds but the fact that everyone was talking about us.
"Everyone was talking about this team from Montreal that went to the final. It brought us a lot of respect."
It didn't initially carry over into MLS play, however. The Impact had a bad start, then picked up their play somewhat before hitting a mid-season slump that saw them lose twice in a row at home without scoring a goal. After a 2-1 loss in Toronto, the coaching change was made.
Instead of bringing in an experienced head coach, they opted for the trusted Biello, who has been with the Impact as a player or coach since the team was founded in 1993. A star midfielder and forward, he set several team records in his playing days and his No. 20 was retired.
Biello won three championships in three different leagues with the Impact, retiring as a player after the last one in 2009. Now he would like a shot at winning one as a coach.
He has some of the tools.
Drogba, who had 12 goals in 14 games, is signed through next season. Belgian Laurent Ciman was named MLS defender of the year. Argentine Ignacio Piatti is a premier playmaker from the left side and mid-season acquisition Johan Venegas is likely to be more productive after a half-season of adjustment to MLS.
Bill Beacon, The Canadian Press