Struggling Impact adapting to high temperatures
Summer heat affecting performance on field
The heat is on the Montreal Impact.
Coming off an embarrassing 4-0 loss in New York on the weekend, coach Marco Schallibaum took the team to a park across the street from Saputo Stadium on Tuesday and made them run for an hour in the sweltering humidity.
Schallibaum said it was not punishment and that it had been planned even before Saturday's debacle in New York, a performance that prompted an angry tweet from owner Joey Saputo that the players needed a talking-to.
The Impact (9-5-4) are without a win and have conceded 12 goals in their last four games, dropping from top spot in Major League Soccer's Eastern Conference to a tie for second place, although they have two games in hand on first-place Kansas City.
The slump happened amidst a midsummer rise in temperatures, which the coach said was no coincidence.
"I've learned that certain players can't play when it's hot and humid," said Schallibaum. "We've seen that the last three or four games."
That may affect his decisions on who will be in the line-up on Saturday night when the Impact play host to slumping Dallas, who have gone six games without a win.
It would be hard to find a player who didn't wilt in the New York heat, but it seemed especially to hit the back line. Ineffective midfilder Andres Romero was subbed out in the first half.
Midfielder Patrice Bernier said it's matter of adapting to the heat.
"We just got summer here, while most of the teams have been playing in 30 degrees with humidity for the last month or two," he said. "You can say it shouldn't be a factor, but it is.
"When it's 90 per cent humidity and you're drained just after warm-up, you come into the game and you're not as fresh as you usually are. Now we have weather that puts us on a level playing field because we're training in the heat. Houston trains in this every day."
Added fullback Hassoun Camara: "The weather is hot, but it is good to suffer together."
Even the post-practice media session got a little hot when Schallibaum was asked about a report on the Spanish-language side of the MLS website that he was about to be sacked.
The Impact denied the report, which quoted a radio station in Colombia.
Schallibaum called it "unprofessional," and said it "hurt a little" to see some people taking it seriously.
"People have short memories these days," he said. "They seem to have forgotten that we are (near) the top of the standings, that we won the Canadian Championship and that, by winning the cup, we made it to the (CONCACAF) champions league.
"We know we didn't play well in New York. We conceded four goals. But we know we have to bounce back."
Saputo had scheduled a news conference for Monday, but postponed it until Wednesday after the loss so he could talk to the players first.
Schallibaum said he and sporting director Nick De Santis already met with Saputo and came away reassured.
"Like us, he's not happy with the results," said Schallibaum. "We met and it was very constructive, no panic.
"They recognize what the club has done up to now. The message was that we have to bounce back. That's normal."
Schallibaum confirmed that, rather than being fired, he is in talks for an extension to the one-year contract he signed for this season.
Saputo was to speak to the players Tuesday afternoon.
What he will say to the media is uncertain. He is to review the first half of the season and make announcements regarding the 2014 season. It was not known if there will be player signings or releases.
The one bit of positive news this week was that Bernier was selected for the MLS all-star game. The all-stars will play a friendly against Italian club AS Roma in Kansas City on July 31.
Striker Marco Di Vaio had already made the starting 11 through a video game promotion.
Bernier said he got the news on Monday while visiting a zoo with a family.
"It was a nice surprise," he said. "You get to meet the other players who are stars on their teams in a relaxed atmosphere.
"And the next day, we are adversaries again. But to get to play a team like Roma doesn't happen every day."
Bernier thanked Schallibaum, who has the 33-year-old playing in a more defensive position at the back of the midfield this season, where he has excelled.
A team spokesman said Di Vaio has returned to Italy to attend to a family matter but is expected back by the end of the week.