Impact hire Swiss boss Schällibaum to be new head coach

The Montreal Impact always figured to hire a European coach to lead the team as Jesse Marsch’s replacement, but few would have pegged the Impact’s next hire to be a journeyman who hasn’t coached a team in almost four years.

The Impact have hired Swiss manager Marco Schällibaum to be the team’s new head coach, the club announced on Monday morning.

Schällibaum joins Montreal after having spent the past few years as a FIFA coaching instructor in Asia. Prior to that, Schallibaum spent almost 10 years as a coach in the Swiss Super League. Over the course of 13 years, Schallibaum coached eight different teams.

“We are confident that Marco Schällibaum will help us succeed,” said Montreal sporting director Nick De Santis. “He has a lot of experience at a very high level and has acquired a lot of knowledge over the years. Over the different meetings, we felt a real desire on his part to come to MLS and to this club. With the rest of the technical staff, we will put him in the best situation possible in order to help him adapt quickly to the reality of North America. He is also very passionate about the game and is an excellent communicator that speaks a number of languages.”

Early impressions on the hire? Schällibaum bounced around quite a bit in Switzerland, and while having guided some teams to the UEFA Cup shows some level of accomplishment, the fact he coached eight teams during a 13-year span makes you wonder just why he bounced around so much. He also hasn’t coached in almost four years (make that two years. Missed his stint with Swiss second-division side Lugano).

Then there is the most obvious concern, the fact he has zero familiarity with MLS. The track record of foreign coaches who have come jumped into MLS jobs with no league experience is a terrible one. No head coach has ever won an MLS title without at least some prior experience in the league (Gary Smith is the closest, having led the Colorado Rapids to the 2010 MLS Cup, but he did serve as an assistant coach under Fernando Clavijo before taking over the head coaching job later in the 2008 season).

The Impact do have, at least at the moment, a coaching staff with considerable MLS experience. Former Chicago Fire head coach Denis Hamlett is on the staff, as is former U.S. Men’s National Team midfielder Mike Sorber. It remains to be seen just who on the Impact’s current coaching staff will remain with the club under Schällibaum.

What do you think of the hire? Consider it a bad choice given his journeyman status and lack of familiarity with MLS? Think it’s an innovative move to hire a European coach with his unique resume?

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38 Responses to Impact hire Swiss boss Schällibaum to be new head coach

  1. Brain Guy says:

    Let’s see if the same people who always bash RBNY for hiring foreign coaches also bash Montreal. It’s only fair, after all.

    • Chris says:

      I’m game. Coached 8 teams in 13 years in a mediocre Swiss league? Past 2-3 years with no club coaching job? No MLS experience?

      What exactly looks good about all this?

      • Helium-3 says:

        He’s available, has experience coaching European-style soccer (not route 1), and is “affordable”. Also can converse in languages common in CH.

        Montreal already have the players, now they just need a coach who can go farther than Marsch.

        • Bobb says:

          “Montreal already have the players”

          LOL do they? I think you’re in for a rude awakening when you realize that 30 year old Italians don’t lead to automatic MLS domination.

          • Helium-3 says:

            You are the idiot by jumping to conclusion that Montreal have the players to “MLS domination.”

            Nobody said that. It was their 1st year last year and they came close to making the playoffs.

    • Joamiq says:

      Did you really think they wouldn’t?

  2. Shane says:

    “speaks a number of languages”, I guess that is an important quality for a coach to win games?

  3. Kris says:

    Glad to see Marsch get canned.

  4. michael m says:

    I have never heard of this guy. I doubt many diehard, European followers, such as myself, have heard of him either. Therefore, I am very much on the fence about this hire. I don’t know what to think. I’ll just wait to see Montreal before I give an opinion. I just hope for the sake of Montreal and the league this pans out.

  5. The Imperative Voice says:

    Dennis Iapichino? I was trying to figure out what the linkage to Montreal could possibly be, and Iapichino and Schällibaum were both seemingly in the same place at FC Lugano in the Swiss second division in 2010/11.

    I wonder if he speaks Italian and if any of the theory is having a coach who speaks the primary language of their conveyor belt of Serie A retirement homers. Except, his CV is OK at best. Saputo looking for someone who’ll follow orders? Marsch with his Princeton background, MLS success, and Bradley protege history probably had his own theory of how to build a team, and sufficient ego to think he could implement it, which may have been at cross-purposes with flashy Italian signings. Will a coach lucky to have a job at this level show the same backbone?

    • Dimidri says:

      I don’t get why everybody is hating on the Impact’s Italian signing-Ferrari and Corderri were pretty good last year, Di Vaio was a good goal scorer the previous year in Italy and still could have started on his team, Nesta played well, etc.

      Yes, it is odd that they keep getting Italian players but they’re hardly a retirement home. They almost made the playoffs and were pretty entertaining as a first year team, something Vancouver, who made the playoffs the next year, cannot say.

      • The Imperative Voice says:

        di Vaio had 5 G 3 A. An argument is possible that he only played half a season of games because of injury, to which my counter-response is, he’s 36, what do you expect?

        In practical terms, putting a GM hat on, he scores as much as the tepid Brian Ching for 5 times the cost. He scores half as much as Bernier for 8 times the cost. He’s moderately productive and at an age when players break down. He contributed to a team which did not make the playoffs. He might not be retirement home lazy but he is on the downslope of his career and I think you can only have so many players of limited productivity and decreasing mobility on a roster before the effect is to expose your team to youth and speed, and render yourself semi-competitive at best.

        • Steve says:

          He wasn’t injured, he got in Montreal in late June in a transfer from Bologna.

        • Sylvain says:

          He was not injured, he began mid-season. Then skipped games because of match fixing allegations in Italy. And yes, maybe 36, but still quite fast and very intelligent with the ball. He showed he was higher quality than most of his teammates.

          The Felipe-DiVaio pair is something I look forward to see this year. Can’t wait!

      • Josh D says:

        I think it’s the Impact’s lack of building from the ground up like a lot of other new clubs have successfully done in the past. They are simply building for the now and with players who simply won’t deliver enough.

        • The Imperative Voice says:

          I have a similar but slightly different concern, which is that not only is it “win now” veteran-oriented staffing, it’s people old enough where they have to be slowing down. Kind of like RBNY. There’s a risk of Old Man Soccer where no matter how much theoretical talent you have, you’re getting deteriorating health, mobility, and quality. Difference between Houston and LA to me. We try to play a controlled style but against the wrong sort of team our defense proves slow and porous. Soccer is a running game and at some point of quality youth and speed starts to win out, even if you’re former Serie A playing some career MLS punk.

          I mean, surely most of us have experienced the Old Man teams in amateur leagues where they obviously had/have talent but can only keep up if the game is slow and you never get separation. Been on both ends of that….

  6. Steve says:

    @Brain Guy I would say yes :)

    @Shane Given the market in Montreal, yes it’s important that he is able to speak French and English. Also with all the Italians in the club that hardly speak English or French, his Italian will be handy. Montreal market != Columbus or Dallas.

    Not sure if this guy will have success in MLS, but De Santis is the one managing the salary cap and trades, so his lack of MLS knowledge is attenuated in those area, still to see if he makes adjustments to his coaching style to fit MSL. Most coachs at IMFC do not last more than 18 months or 2 years (NASL and MLS) anyway.

    We could also ask how many American coachs have failed in MLS… I guess it’s less popular to talk about that than the usual European bashing.

    • greg says:

      U r right but one addendum: Marco diVaio speaks better french than most Montreal raised french players. He has an italian acccent but his vocabulary is much more developed than the usual grunting the local kids do.

      One more thing on the language front: the academy is run by a few french coaches from France (different kind of french) and the overwhelming majority of kids there speak french/

  7. Josh D says:

    MLS’ Italian team hires a Swiss coach. At least he speaks European – right?!

  8. RK says:

    He was hired by the Saputos to get his family’s closely-held secret to making Swiss cheese.

  9. Speaks English, Italian and French so he can talk to all sections of the press and the players. I was looking at his record. His last period at Lugano makes his record look respectable (win % of 35.5%), otherwise he has a win percentage of 30.5%. He kind of looks like the Swiss Glenn Roeder. Some respectable seasons, often followed by seasons way below expectations that leads him to get sacked.

    • The Imperative Voice says:

      The linguistic capabilities may be useful in Quebec, and with the Italians Saputo seems intent upon. As you suggest.

      But I thought the Serie A signings in bulk reflected a particular approach to staffing the team which had dubious results. And seemed like it was coming top down from Saputo. If I sign a bunch of Italians it screams “win now.” They didn’t “win now” nonetheless. At which point the question of whether the ownership tail is wagging the coach/ dog is begged. Since then you have an interim Italian coach and a Swiss who in addition to requisite French also speaks Italian. At which point to me it’s like, not only do I wonder about the coach, I wonder if the organization is basically being led into some Winter-esque cul-de-sac.

      Far as critiquing the coach specifically goes, his last job was in the Swiss second division.

      • I honestly thought if they wanted somebody trilingual, they could have gone after Gianluca Vialli. He’d probably be a disaster but he looks tremendous in a sweater/shirt combo.

        • The Imperative Voice says:

          Vialli could at least sales-pitch the 5 trophies for CFC. Granted, his success aligned with Bates starting to spend on domestic and international players, which eventually built into the Russian-funded checkbook teams. And he did not replicate his success at Watford. But he has a CV and a name that might attract players.

  10. ed - houston says:

    excellent, this bodes well for the rest of the east. it does not appear montreal will not top their inagural season results.

  11. Nicolas says:

    At least we can explain why he was fired after only 47 days at fc scion….

    “Constantin’s hiring and firing of coaches makes being a guitarist in The Fall seem like a secure career option: 18 managers have been dismissed since 2003. Nestor Clausen quit at half-time during a 2006 Swiss Cup match, fed up with having the line-up dictated to him by the president. His successor, Marco Schällibaum, lasted a mere 47 days.”

  12. jorge says:

    Chivas of the north?

  13. chris says:

    This is good for the east. The Impact will turn into the Expos and get dropped from league. Who honestly thought it would be a good idea to waste an expansion slot on this team?

    • alex says:

      Probably everyone who was paying attention

    • The Imperative Voice says:

      Montreal averaged 22K fans a game. Now, that was swelled by some Olympic Stadium games. But that alone makes them major league…and they were a 5-figure attended minor league team too.

      The issue is the ownership IMO. The whole thing got delayed a season or two fighting over the entry fee, and now it looks like they will neglect the normal MLS building process to bring in a bunch of Serie A guys. Post-Marsch their HC choices seem to be people to work with the Italians.

      To me, it boils down to, they got a good fanbase but at the expense of Saputo micromanaging the team. People are throwing around Chivas and perhaps the Vergara comparison is apt.

    • Georges says:

      Chris, kinda wonder what you’re saying: either you’re ignorant of where Montreal soccer has been, i.e. A League, USL, NASL, or you just dislike what is Montreal.
      Either way, nobody will take your comment any which way seriously,
      Next time, say what you really mean, that way, I can say what I and maybe others really mean, get it? Georges, from Montreal btw.

  14. MLSsnob says:

    ? Montreal, doesn’t seem they know what they’re doing. For a team MLS was so willing to forego the $40 million franchise fee for beacuse Saputo is cheap (i.e Saputo Stadium) they sure aren’t returning Garber’s faith that they would be a good addition to the league. Granted the support is good and the culture etc. But the rest of it has been questionable at best.

    • MLSsnob says:

      I mean really, who hires a coach just becuase they can speak a particular language? Look at Roberto Mancini, when he got to Man City my nephew could speak more English.

    • Sylvain says:

      Meanwhile I’ll have the honor and pleasure to witness the play of guys like Felipe, Ferrari, Bernier, Di Vaio and Nesta. (Nesta marking Henry last summer a pleasure to fellow).

  15. Chris says:

    Swiss League is much better than mls. Fc Basel this Year uefa Europe league Semifinal. Win in Last 2 years in champions League vs Bayern munich, Manchester united and this Year vs tottenham.