MONTREAL — Players aren’t the only ones that need to cope with a coaching change. Returning staff members also have a role to play.
For Wilfried Nancy, who was an assistant under Mauro Biello, Remi Garde and now Wilmer Cabrera, it can be summed up in one word: Adaptation.
“The role of an assistant is to help the head coach make the best possible decisions,” Nancy said. “For sure, our role was to give Wilmer some indications. He didn’t know the team very well, he didn’t know the specificities of the relations between players. So we adapt, we listen and it’s about going straight to the point.”
When asked what differentiated Cabrera from Garde or Biello, Nancy answered that every coach has different ways of working. However, he added that due to the nature of his hire, the Colombian tried to be “as simple and calm in his approach.”
“I learned in this field that it’s about individuals, firstly,” Nancy said. “The individual has certain things within them that they want to bring to the pitch. On that note, it’s interesting to see how all coaches work because at the end of the day there is always something different for the same result.”
With nine days before the next game, Cabrera and the Impact finally have time to sit down and calmly review what they want to change. First on the agenda was to work on playing higher up.
“He is someone that is trying to be a little higher up on the field,” Nancy said of Cabrera. “So the objective is to give players benchmarks regarding that. We had a video session (Thursday morning) and we will work on these relationships, how to give trouble to a defensive block that plays lower.”
The second point of the agenda was revamping the way the Impact defended set piece plays. Montreal had a man-to-man approach for most of the season and is looking to flip to a zone coverage.
“There were conversations in the past about how we will defend set pieces and with the new coach the idea was to start on that,” Nancy said. “Whether were in zone or man-to-man coverage, it’s a mindset at the end of the day.”
“In zone coverage, we’re a little more focused on ourselves, on the distance between our players. In man-to-man, it’s more about one-on-ones but one doesn’t go without the other,” he added.
Despite the tactical changes, Saphir Taider still firmly believes that his team can check off their season objectives. The Impact are currently one point out of the playoffs but the international break couldn’t come at a better moment.
“It’s true that a few days off didn’t hurt anyone,” Taider said. “It’s did us a lot of good and we still have about ten days to work so it helped out mentally.”
For Taider, the players’ mental aspect is very important. It will take a lot of mental toughness for the Impact in the last month of the season to make the MLS Cup playoffs and lift the Voyageurs Cup. Taider understood it and has passed it along to his teammates.
“Some teams may have their minds elsewhere but we need to stay focused,” Taider said. “We need to play our chances in the league and we still have a cup to go get. Our season is still alive and I’ll give out a message to stay focused and keep the mind strong. It’s often the last month that is the most decisive.”