USA Today Sports

Players support Schällibaum: "It shows how much he cares about his players"

It seems a little too easy to think that Impact head coach Marco Schällibaum reacted badly to the dangerous aerial tackle by D.C. United’s James Riley on his midfielder Justin Mapp in a 2-1 victory at Stade Saputo two weeks ago.

However, for the guys in the locker room, nothing is farther from the truth.

“When something like that happens the way it did to Justin in the D.C. game, you react like it’s your friend, your teammate or your family and you forget that as a coach, you have to stay in your box,” said Impact captain Davy Arnaud. “Players appreciate how Marco has their backs. You can see it in the way that he coaches, in training. He’s passionate about what he does and he is a winner. For me personally, I think it’s a great quality to have in a coach.”

The locker room dynamic is one of family. It’s a tightly knit group and each guy is ready to do battle for the guy sitting next to them. Their coach is the first guy in line.

“Marco [Schällibaum] is the leader of our group,” added Hassoun Camara. “He gives us instructions and leads us. That’s not just with his words. We saw that when he came to Justin’s defence. It shows how much he cares about his players and wants to protect us. When you know you have a coach like that, you want to perform even better for him.”

And it’s not like he’s the first coach in MLS to bring a fiery temperament to the position of coach, just ask Arnaud who played for one of the most ardent coaches in North America.

“If you look at Peter Vermes in Kansas City, I think they would get along well as people,” Arnaud jokes, as the Impact and Sporting Kansas City have a serious rivalry brewing. “They are both very fiery individuals, passionate about what they do. You can see that their demeanours on the sidelines are similar.”

Despite Schällibaum’s absence from the bench in Philadelphia against the Union this Saturday, the players feel they are ready for battle when the whistle blows.

“Whether the coach is in the stands or on the bench, for us, it doesn’t make that much difference,” explains Camara. “We prepare with him all week, so the systems and set plays are all in place. Mauro [Biello] and the rest of the coaching staff have done a good job on game day to fill in, but by that time we have already put in the work.”

Camara’s words ring even truer as the Impact dismantled the Houston Dynamo last Saturday at Stade Saputo by a 5-0 score, without Schällibaum on the sidelines.

Extra work will have to be put in this week as road points have been hard to come by lately.