Montreal Impact make Mauro Biello permanent head coach after late-season run

Montreal Impact make Mauro Biello permanent head coach after late-season run

Main pic: Mauro Biello is reflected in a television screen as he is confirmed as head coach of the Montreal Impact during a news conference Friday, November 13, 2015 in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson. 

MONTREAL — Mauro Biello was named the permanent head coach, Ignacio Piatti was tabbed as player of the year and Didier Drogba admitted he was a slowed by a tendon problem in the Major League Soccer playoffs.

Those were the bigger nuggets of news to emerge as the Montreal Impact met the media for the first time since their loss to the Columbus Crew in MLS’s semifinal after an otherwise successful 2015 campaign.

Team president Joey Saputo announced that the “interim” tag was lifted from Biello’s job title and that he will be head coach and director of player personnel.

Biello was rewarded for leading a 7-2-2 surge down the stretch to finish third in the Eastern Conference, setting team records with 15 wins and 51 points. Then Montreal beat Toronto FC in the knockout round of playoffs before falling 4-3 on aggregate to Columbus in the two-legged semifinals.

He replaced the fired Frank Klopas on Aug. 30.

“For me to be able to lead this team as the head coach is an incredible moment,” said Biello, 43, a Montreal native who was a star player for the club before it entered MLS. “I just want to continue what we started here.”

Saputo said it was not a normal coaches contract for a set number of years and that Biello will stay in the organization even if he is removed from the job in the future. But he at least hopes Biello will be in the job for at least the next three years.

“We have agreed that for the next three years he will spearhead this team and take the necessary time to build a team that can compete constantly,” said Saputo. “But more importantly, it will also enable him to instill a philosophy and an identity on the team.”

Biello will have most of his big guns back in 2016, including Piatti, the Argentine midfielder who had nine goals and eight assists in 26 games in his first full season. He was presented with the Guiseppe Saputo Trophy as the team’s player of the year, which Biello won four times.

The other award in the room, for MLS defender of the year, belonged to Laurent Ciman, the Belgian sweeper who helped Montreal’s back line go from among the worst in the league in 2014 to one of its best.

Biello was fortunate to take over as coach just as in-season signing Drogba was ready to start playing. The former Chelsea star was a sensation, scoring 12 goals in as many games before he was shut out in the semifinals.

Drogba said he injured a tendon in a leg in the knockout game against TFC.

“It affected me at the end,” the 37-year-old said. “It’s too bad because if I was fresher it could have been different.”

Drogba said he is eager to rest up and heal to be ready for next season.

He is among 10 players already under contract for next season, along with Ciman, Piatti, fullback Ambroise Oyongo, midfielders Patrice Bernier, Marco Donadel, Calum Mallace, Nigel Reo-Coker, and Johan Venegas and forward Romario Williams.

The team has options on forward Dominic Oduro and goalkeeper Evan Bush.

There are two potential free agents, midfielders Justin Mapp and Dilly Duka. Mapp missed most of the season with injuries. He said he would like to return but “I think I should explore my options.”

Veteran forward Kenny Cooper also missed the end of the season with an injury and hopes to return.

Forward Cameron Porter, who scored a spectacular last-minute goal in CONCACAF Champions League play in March, but then blew out a knee a week later, has been cleared to resume playing and hopes to be back.

Bill Beacon, The Canadian Press

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