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Garde Pays With Job, For Recent Form Slump

Impact’s French coach is replaced by Colombian, Wilmer Cabrera

MLS: FC Dallas at Montreal Impact Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

No matter what Montreal Impact fans think of Remi Garde, there must be many questioning not only the timing of this decision, but also the identity of his replacement.

With only seven regular-season games left, five at home and two away, you have to assume that president, Kevin Gilmore had lost confidence in the French coach’s ability to qualify his team for post-season football, and only by replacing him, would the Impact stand a chance.
The wisdom of such a bold move will become apparent, or not, as the regular season draws to its conclusion.

Said Gilmore, “We hope to bring back confidence to this group of players for the last stretch of the season, to get a playoff spot and to perform in the Canadian Championship final. I would like to sincerely thank Rémi Garde for his commitment and his professionalism with our club since he joined in November 2017. I wish him only but the best in the future.”

The man seen as the potential saviour will raise eyebrows. The appointment of Wilmer Cabrera, fired eight days ago after a miserable run of form with the Houston Dynamo, suggests the Impact hierarchy feel a change, any change, is positive.

Cabrera has a US Open Cup win and a Western Conference Final defeat on his CV, but apart from a respectable playing career at international level, there’s little else to inspire supporter confidence that this is the right move. You would be forgiven for thinking that the Impact had already been on the look-out for a suitable candidate to replace Garde, and when Cabrera got the bullet, he simply fell into their lap.

It’s a little more difficult to understand why Mr Gilmore believes Wilmer Cabrera’s credentials are the right ones. And you wonder had Cabrera not lost his job just over a week ago, would Remi Garde have remained at least for another week, or was there some other coach in the frame should the former Houston man rebuff Montreal’s approach?

Was Cabrera even the first choice to replace Garde?

Of course sometimes a coaching change can do the trick. Someone to gee up the troops, to bring new ideas, and to inspire and instil confidence.

MLS: Portland Timbers at Houston Dynamo
New Impact boss, Wilmer Cabrera.
Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

We don’t know all that has gone on behind the scenes. Speculation, without reliable confirmation I might add, suggests discord between the coach and certain players; Omar Browne and Zakaria Diallo to name two. Diallo, earlier in the season, publicly displayed his displeasure having been withdrawn in the home game against Minnesota United, heading off to the locker room without acknowledging the bench.

The French defender had once looked like the leader Montreal so desperately needed at the back, but recent months had seen a dip in form, coupled with performances suggesting his head was elsewhere, northern France perhaps.

Another two signings attributed to Garde didn’t help his cause either, and may have tipped the balance if Impact management remained on the fence. Rudy Camacho was acquired, probably in a panic during the centre-back crisis of Garde’s very early days, and given a four-year deal at inflated wages. Harry Novillo, the less said about the better, but considering there was history between player and coach, you must wonder about the wisdom of bringing the player to Montreal.

Novillo had more passports than goals during his time in Quebec, and his departure disappointed more than one nightclub owner in the city. Camacho at least applied himself, but after almost two seasons so far has come up short of requirements.

Columbus Crew SC v Montreal Impact
Harry Novillo, a less than effective signing by Remi Garde, who would have felt let-down by the player’s lack of application.
Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images

The most significant factor in all of this however remains the fitness of Nacho Piatti, and to a lesser extent the late transfer-window signings of Lassi Lappalainen and Bojan Krkic.

Had they arrived earlier, it may have helped alleviate the current plight. Had Piatti stayed healthy, it’s highly likely the Impact would already have one foot in the play-offs. Garde has been unlucky in this respect, and today’s decision before he can get to work with a full, healthy squad, looks somewhat harsh, not to mention risky.

Details of the contract offered Wilmer Cabrera have not yet been disclosed. Is it until the season’s end? Is it a one-year or two-year deal?

Either way, Impact fans must rally behind the new man, and hope he can provide the midas touch in leading their team towards post-season soccer for the first time in three seasons.

It’s a huge challenge for the Colombian and we’re about to see if he’s all the Impact front-office think he is.