Butler: Impact pay dearly for playoff opportunity costs

Noel Butler
11/1/2013 2:18:37 PM
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Start as you mean to go on then? Hardly.

Bookies were offering odds of 13/1 before kickoff that the home team Houston Dynamo would prevail by three goals to nil.

Ominous odds. We should have seen the warning.

What price, we wonder for three players to be red-carded from the same team in blue? Drooping off the pitch with heads hung shamefully low, only eight men in tow?

The Montreal Impact had just made MLS history. No, not the type which would have been in the January power point presentations.

In the 20-plus year history of MLS, no team - and there has been many rough-edged ones, has ever had three players dismissed in the course of a playoff match.

At least one from the Impact's Podium of Shame had the calmness of thought about him only minutes after reaching the dressing room to offer up an apology just before dipping into that icy cold early bath.

And it was Romero taking to social media, typing out, "Sorry for my reaction in the game tonight. I felt great impotence [sic importance] and no I couldn't control. excuse me!"

I'll leave the jokers amongst you to play off Romero's spoonerism of impotence. It could of course be the best describing word to detail the last 10 matches this season from MLS's 19th franchise.

Displaying though a certain PR savvy, Romero was canny enough to aim his tweet at not only his employee but also to those who have sacrificed both their hard earned money and valuable time to the Impact cause for over a decade - UM02. Better known in MLS Supporter Group Culture as the Montreal Ultras.

I am not going to waste any time on searching for any quotes where Impact head coach Marco Schällibaum would perhaps have offered up apologies.  For all I know, he may have already been fired.

Schällibaum's almost monthly apology address have worn mighty hallow over the course of a very lengthy season. How many have we heard already?


As Keith Richards reminds us, "Talk Is Cheap." Only our actions count, be the direct inference from Rock and Roll's bad boy.

It's not form to blame Schällibaum for his actions. Or more precisely, his inactions.

Blame Rivas, Romero and Di Vaio all you like. But the last time I checked, football was still a team sport.

Every team instructed and bought together in football harmony by the technical staff - under the guidance of management.

You've let everyone down. Every single stakeholder. From top to bottom. First and foremost your supporters.

Or as one of the game's canniest of business minds, Peter Kenyon, ex-CEO of Manchester United and Chelsea FC, once infamously described football fans as customers.

Kenyon's only crime? Brutal honesty in his forthright choice of words.

Sticking with the money theme all those club partners which have invested both marketing dollars basis will feel a sense of been had.

Each of the club partners buys in with the expectation of success. The reward system providing, as the money men refer to as the ROI.  To the uninitiated, the Return On Investment.

Success on the pitch leading to success off of it as the cliché goes.

The partner group is the sub species of a football club which makes available a significant percentage of the capital to allow for investment and upgrades to the playing pool.

The risks the partner group buy into happened during 90 minutes of Houston Hell last night. The clever ones will have though built such scenarios into their strategy planning models.

After all, what is that they say about, out of all bad comes good.

Not wanting at all to place club partners above Impact employees, volunteer or paid but they as well are another group of hapless victims.

Those travelling to Houston will have an easier time dealing with last night than those who will have gathered at Impact pubs, cafés or even in each other's homes to take in what came billed as an historic moment for the Impact, their employer.

How shell-shocked are each of them as they arrived into their offices at Stade Saputo Friday morning? Wonder what their conversation round the ample water coolers was?

I bet none are on 2014 Season Ticket drives.

Yet another opportunity cost of 90 minutes in Houston Hell.

The League will demand and receive all the answers they require. Newly minted VP of Operations and Security Ray Whitworth just witnessed quite the baptism of fire.

As he took in the match, Whitworth more than anyone else would have been fully aware of the quite explosive potential attached to Romero and Di Vaio's actions.

Mercifully unlike Whiworth's native England - which gave birth to football hooliganism - the English disease has not migrated across the Atlantic. At least not yet. 

Imagine for one moment Thursday night was a crucial West Ham vs Millwall encounter, one made all the more incendiary as it welcomed in a night time sky.

There would be still be fires smouldering in Houston as its health services continued the enormous  task of saving limbs, if not precious life itself.

MLS's Peter Walton, another veteran of the English trenches, in his role as GM of the Professional Referee Organization has a sizable task ahead of him.

What will the MLS Disciplinary Committee be munching on as they eat their muesli for breakfast this morning?

Many across the Impact's micro and macro worlds will find opportunity here to bring to task Impact President Joey Saputo. Some will lay the 90 minutes of Houston Hell blame fully at him.

As you do, remember it was Saputo who made the decision to commit the significant money the club made available this time last year so as to be in place to significantly upgrade the 2012 talent pool.

In addition to that, consider the millions of dollars of red ink hemorrhaging from the 2012 accounts. Saputo also placed significant personal money to the 2013 cause.

It was the Impact Class of 2013 who took to the pitch last night. Not Saputo. Nor the stadium that bares the holding company name. More opportunity cost when factoring in the money now swirling around MLS naming rights deals.

Saputo will be inconsolable right now. Not only in his role as club president, but as a fan. No one lives, breathes and kicks the Impact quite like him.

There was though some comfort for me to be found from last night. I'll take any crumb under these conditions and circumstances. They actually come from what wasn't. Reading between the lines as Dickens may have uttered.

One comes in the considerable global football force that is Alessandro Nesta.

Mercifully spared from anything connected to last night by injury, or more likely the toll of multiple injuries in a quite all together remarkable career which spawned into life as an eight-year old in a Roman suburb. Di Vaio a teammate.

That and the pending birth of a third child down in Miami rendered Nesta un-travelable.

The other comfort comes in the quite considerable form of IMFC original MLS homeboy, Patrice Bernier.

Yes he travelled, made it to the bench but was spared the embarrassment of being one of that final whistle gang of eight.

Bernier has been playing through the pain barrier just as the Impact's season began taking the shape of a pear.

We don't need to remind you how Bernier's star has shone since  December 2011, when  on a wet and windy Monday morning the media gathered at the Impact's then downtown offices as club president welcomed the Brossard native back into the Impact bosom.

Not content with personal accolades in the form of 2012 MVP the man elevated his game this season. Then factor in he was asked (or was it told) to play and perform to his high standards in a most unfamiliar role by his new head coach.

I won't claim to know Bernier, I'm still coming to terms with myself. But what I do know is what I have witnessed first-hand on and off the Impact pitch. I don't need to get into what I have been told.

From my lookout post - which extends all the way back to them Claude Robillard days - Bernier has been the exception to the football rule.

Ooze the stuff he does, the utter personification of class.

Something totally lacking from his club last night Bernier, as Nesta, will both feel immense guilt by association.

With no word on any contract extension seeping from Saputo Stadium as the focus was four square on Di Vaio - if I'm Bernier's agent, hometown discount has just been taking off the table.

What will be on the minds of Impact Legends this morning? Especially the class of 94, those the club paid a terrific tribute to as part of the ceremony introducing the 2013 version.

All season long we witnessed wonderful pre match scenes as those most deserving which helped build the club towards its MLS moment, were introduced to supporters many of whom not even born during those halcyon Claude Robillard days.

Somewhere, Jesse Marsch is getting his laughter on.

Change of Coach? Change of culture needed more like.

More on the Impact - TSN 690 Saturday morning during a special edition of oranges @ halftime - Pulp Free, Freshness Guaranteed. Kick Off at 10am et/7am pt

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You can reach and follow Noel Butler at:
@TheSoccerNoel on Twitter

Noel Butler

Noel Butler

Noel Butler is an analyst for TSN's soccer coverage and his blog can be read on You can follow him on Twitter at and listen to his radio program oranges@halftime on TSN Radio 690 Montreal.


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