Saputo’s Nightmarish Italian dream

Disrespect for the way MLS works could threaten the future success of the Impact
by Henrik Lonne   |   Friday, November 16, 2012

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Joey Saputo and his Montreal Impact are touring Italy, which is giving the team a chance for some post-season evaluation. But it’s also giving Saputo the opportunity to show his Italian stars and learn from other Italians – something he seems to enjoy doing. This Italian excursion has rekindled the rumors of Luca Toni to the Impact, something that wouldn’t be surprising, considering Saputo’s previous signings.

But Shavar Thomas, Josh Gardner, Evan James and Jesse Marsch are all not going on the trip. What can we take from this?

Saputo doesn’t see the Impact as any other MLS club. In all fairness, they’ve existed for quite a while and Saputo has been a hands-on owner along the way. Apart from James, these are people who know MLS. And while Thomas and Gardner aren’t world-class players, they have proven themselves as cheap utility players, which are a key asset for a MLS club trying to manoeuvre the roster rules.

In Marsch, the Impact fired a coach that had a very good expansion season and who knows MLS. That “philosophical reasons” was the reason for letting Marsch go makes me wonder if the plan was to only give him a year all along. Saputo must have recognized the need for a coach with MLS knowledge in order to succeed the first season, which is helpful in establishing the Montreal Impact as a strong MLS team.

Now some people are speculating that the Impact will hire an Italian coach, which would definitely help out in instructing Marco Di Vaio, Alessandro Nesta and the rest of the Italian players. So this will have to be a big name. But, to beat on dead horse, MLS isn’t welcome territory for big name coaches – just ask Carlos Queiroz, Aron Winter or Ruud Gullit.

Being ambitious is great. Whatever can be done to create a successful club, we should support. However, history has shown that insufficient respect for the way MLS works and lacking appreciation for the knowledge of how to succeed in the league is the path to doom. Just look at Toronto FC and Chivas USA, arguably two of the most dysfunctional teams in the league. The highpoints of both clubs' time in the league has one thing in common: Preki.

While Preki certainly had his faults, he had plenty of MLS experience and knew what it took to succeed. If Saputo isn’t careful, the Impact could end up as the Italian-Canadian version of Chivas USA, and no one can be evil enough to wish that fate on anyone.

Henrik LONNE

Copenhagen Business School
Club Domestic:
AGF Aarhus
Club Foreign:
Toronto FC
Born and raised in Denmark, the US performance in the 2002 World Cup dragged Henrik into the world of North American soccer. Subsequent trips to Canada made him a Toronto FC fan from abroad. The passion he now has for MLS outshines most European leagues.