Former Canadian international Nick De Santis is a fixture in Montréal soccer, from signing with the Canadian Soccer League’s Montréal Supra in 1987, to moving to the Impact in 1993, to his position as Sporting Director when the club jumped to Major League Soccer in 2012. As resident, player, manager, and executive, the 46-year-old has been a near constant presence in his home town.
As of today, however, the presence will be redefined, with an Impact team sporting Major League Soccer’s worst record relieving De Santis of his sporting director’s role.
“In business, the most difficult decisions to make are those made involving emotions,” explained Impact president Joey Saputo. “ This is why, today, I am forced to make this decision with a heavy heart. After twenty years of being part of the technical team as a player, successful coach and GM, it gives me great sadness to announce that Nick De Santis has been relieved from his functions.”
Though it’s always sad when connection as deep as De Santis’s has to be severed, this move has been coming. Fans at Stade Saputo had displayed signs reminding their owner that mixed results over the team’s first two-and-a-half seasons had one commonality. Decisions on players and coaches couldn’t be separated from the man who was making them.
According to Montréal’s statement, De Santis will continue with the club, albeit in an administrative role, but for a man Saputo called the Impact’s “architect,” a new soccer life starts now.
“He’s acted as not only a great advisor, but was also a friend,” Saputo said. “However, we are in a results based business. Since July 2013, the results are not at the level of our expectations. The decision not to make moves to improve this club during the offseason, albeit calculated, did not give us the competitive edge we were expecting.”
“We tried with coaches, had three coaches in three years. We changed players. Obviously Nick took responsibilities as sporting director. He made decisions during the offseason. There’s a certain amount of accountability that you have to take, and unfortunately we’re not where we want to be, and he’s paying the price for it.”
This time last year, Montréal was competing at the top of the Eastern Conference, with a quick start under first-year coach Marco Schällibaum leaving the Impact destined for the playoffs. Come the start of the postseason, Montréal were tripping over themselves, imploding during a season-ending 3-0 loss at Houston.
This offseason, De Santis elected to bring former Fire head coach Frank Klopas in as Schällibaum’s replacement while staying the course with his roster. The decision has left Montréal with three wins in 20 games, costing its architect his job.
It’s the change Impact fans asked for, though the lack of a clear alternative should give supporters pause. Nine months after being let go by Chicago, Klopas is in temporary control, with Montréal deferring its search for a new sporting director until the club reorganizes its technical department.
Regardless, this was a change that needed to be made. By staying true to the squad he assembled last season, De Santis crafted a make-or-break scenario. With 14 points in 20 games, something its broken in Montréal.