Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Montreal's Head Coach Makes You Wonder

Schallibaum is a native of Switzerland where he spent his entire playing career and the majority of his coaching career. As a player he made nearly 400 appearances in the Swiss Super League and won 31 caps for his country.

The 50-year-old spent the last 13 years coaching various Swiss teams before spending time as a FIFA coaching instructor in Qatar, Mongolia and South Korea, according the press release from the Montreal Impact.

It’s certainly in an interesting hire and although there hasn’t been much buzz linking Schallibaum and the Impact before Monday, the hire makes sense considering Montreal’s recent European trend.

There are legitimate concerns, however.

Struggles of foreign coaches in MLS are well documented - Gary Smith remains the only coach to win an MLS Cup without prior MLS coaching experience – and Montreal should be wary of New York’s obsession with foreign coaches correlated with a lack of trophies.

The fact Schallibaum has managed nine teams since 1995 is also worth considering. He’s never stayed with one club for more than four years and while he’s managed to guide a few teams to European Competition, you’d like to see a little more silverware on the resume.

There’s also the question of playing style. Former coach Jesse Marsch parted ways with the team due to a difference in philosophy. Presumably, Montreal brass (Joey Saputo) wasn’t impressed with Marsch’s direct, physical style of soccer. Is Schallibaum the guy to bring a graceful, flowing attack to Montreal? We’ll see. Say what you want about Marsch’s style, but there’s no denying it was effective, helping Montreal almost made the playoffs in its debut season.

Schallibaum does speak four languages including French and English which, according to Goal.com, fulfills the Impact’s policy that the head coach be able to speak both of Canada’s official languages. His European experience and impressive playing resume should also help him earn respect from the club’s veteran stars Marco Di Vaio and Alessandro Nesta.

To make any final judgments before Schallibaum actually coaches a game would be silly, but he has to show progress in year two. After last season, that means anything else than a playoff berth will be a disappointment.