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Impact Today - A Strange and Hollow Press Conference

“It was time to act.” - Kevin Gilmore.

President Kevin Gilmore presented new coach Wilmer Cabrera to the assembled press this afternoon at centre Nutrilait.

It was a strange press conference. And for all Kevin Gilmore’s fortitude and reasoning, one that did not inspire or encourage.

With a fanbase remaining split over the decision to let Garde go, and a majority siding against (if any value can be attributed to yesterday’s RDS poll), it was always likely to be sticky. Add to that the timing of the move and the new man appointed, and there remains quite a large dollop of unconvincing wonderment.

Kevin Gilmore described the reasoning behind his decision.

“As an organization we were left with two choices. We could sit on the sidelines like we have been doing for the past month and a half, hoping that things would change. Or we could act. For the betterment of this club, I decided it was time to act.

“I spoke to the players this morning. I wanted to share with them the reasons behind the decision. But I also wanted to share with them the fact that every single player in that locker-room and every single staff member in that locker-room, shares in the responsibility for the performance that led to the decision. Everyone played a role.

“That’s the past though, and now we look to the future. And I also shared with them that they also now, each and every one of them, are going to play a role in what we do over the next nine games.

“And they will have to play their role to a tee, if we’re going to reach this objective. The objectives are very clear. Qualifying for the MLS play-offs and [winning] the Canadian Championship. Nine games.

“I made it very clear to them we have a new coach. This is a new day and we have a very clear and specific goal which we plan on achieving.”

When asked why Wilmer Cabrera was seen as the right replacement, the answer leaned more towards the immediate removal of Garde as the over-riding factor, supported by the fact that Cabrera was simply available, and possessed MLS coaching experience.

“It was important for us to bring someone in with MLS coaching experience. It so happened that one of those coaches was available with MLS experience and he happened to be coaching two weeks ago, so that’s pretty recent.”

Assume then, that Mike Petke (recently released by Real Salt Lake) potentially was under consideration too in that case, but either way it was a response that spoke more of ‘knee-jerk’ than ‘planning’.

There was another mildly awkward moment when the tenure of the coach’s contract was raised, the president suggesting that everyone at the club was ‘interim’. This may have been better received had it been made clear right from the outset that Cabrera was arriving on a short-term deal, rather than the detail emerging only after journalists’ questions.

Cabrera said, “Listen, right now they told me, ‘let’s work on that’ and [asked] do you want to join? [I said] yes, I’m ready. I’m already warmed-up. Let’s do it, and then, we continued to talk and moved forward. But right now it is not about being attached.”

Columbus Crew SC v Montreal Impact
Changing of the Garde - Out goes Remi .....
Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images
MLS Soccer - Los Angeles Galaxy v Houston Dynamo
.... and in comes Wilmer
Photo by Shaun Clark/Getty Images

It sounds all very ‘stop-gap: meet our objectives and you may stay, fail and it’s lights-out!

Gilmore admitted that talks about extending Garde’s time in Montreal took place recently, which suggests the last two matches; the late defeat at Chicago and the collapse to draw at home to Dallas, probably settled the coach’s fate.

The president offered, “The question on locking-up Remi for long-term being the priority, that was in fact the case up until very recently. In fact discussions took place up until a week and a half ago.”

Now it’s time for Wilmer Cabrera to get to work, without a contract and within a very short window in which to prove himself. There’s a pressure in that in itself. His leadership needs to be short, sharp, practical and effective, but that’s possibly alright, if both sides understand each other clearly enough. Much however is likely to depend on Patrice Bernier’s knowledge of the players and organization. If the Colombian is to succeed you imagine the former captain must become a hugely reliable crutch.

Cabrera talked of his footballing philosophy in relation to his new role. “The idea at this point is not adopting the players to my philosophy but trying to help them with what they have, to be successful and making some little adjustment.”

“Obviously the fact that I am here shows that I take risks. Well, I want my players to take risks, because when you take risks, you can lose, you can tie and you can win, but no matter what, we’re always going to feel that we gave the best possible to try to win.”

“We will see the answers at the end of the season.”

Many Impact fans will still be left wondering, if things might have been better left to Remi Garde and his management team to complete their second year, especially given the lateness of the current campaign. Kevin Gilmore is paid the big bucks to make big decisions, and the president clearly felt Garde was not the man to lead the Impact into the final straight. At least he has been decisive.

Let’s hope Wilmer Cabrera is that man.