MONTREAL — The Montreal Impact got the coach they were looking for in former Olympique Lyonnais and Aston Villa boss Remi Garde.
The Frenchman introduced Wednesday as the replacement for the fired Mauro Biello meets two main criteria team president Joey Saputo laid out for his new manager — at least five seasons of experience with top-level clubs and having won major trophies.
Garde, who coached Lyon to a French Cup title, signed a three-year contract as coach and director of player personnel. He becomes the team’s fifth head coach since it joined MLS in 2012.
"If you look at the organization since we joined MLS, besides building a stadium and a training centre, we invested in players, but one thing that was missing was the investment in a coach and a coaching staff to bring what we’ve built to the next level," said Saputo.
He hopes to have found that in 51-year-old Garde, whose first job will be to hire assistants, at least one of whom with MLS experience to help him learn a league that is vastly different from any he’s played or coached in before.
Garde said he’s seen only a little MLS action, but has gone over its particularities with his friend and former Arsenal teammate Patrick Vieira, who coaches New York City FC. It was after talks with Vieira that Garde decided to go for the Montreal job.
They talked about travel in a league than spans a continent and a variety of climates and officiating that often exasperates newcomers from Europe.
"Since I left Lyon, I wanted new experiences," said Garde, who is fluent in French and English. "I had some offers since then.
"I always wanted to work abroad but I hadn’t immediately thought of MLS."
Garde earned plaudits as coach at his home club in Lyon, winning the French Cup and Super Cup in 2012. He started as an assistant coach before taking charge from 2011 to 2014.
It did not go as well in his next job with English Premier League club Aston Villa in 2015, where he lasted only five months and left with only two wins in 20 matches.
As a player, Garde was a defender and defensive midfielder with Lyon and Strasbourg in France before making the jump with then-20-year-old Vieira to Arsenal in 1996. He helped the Gunners to a league title in 1998 before retiring the following year. He also played six times for France.
Garde said he likes attacking, ball-possession soccer, for which his Lyon squad was known. It would be a major change for the Impact, which has mostly played a counterattacking game.
But he also said teams must be pragmatic and be able to play any style of game.
He is also a big believer in developing young players. An attraction of the Montreal job was that the club had an established academy at its training centre.
But there will be much to get used to when he moves into the city in coming days, starting with the weather.
"I didn’t know the city much, except that the winter was strong," said Garde. "It’s a real winter, not a French one, but I had a good impression. I came a few weeks ago and had a good feeling about the city."
The Impact are confident Garde will do better than their last European coach in 2013, Marco Schallibaum, who was called the Swiss Volcano for frequent sideline blowups that led to ejections.
Schallibaum was succeeded by American Frank Klopas, who was replaced in September 2015 by Biello. Montreal native Biello led the club to an Eastern Conference semifinal, then reached the conference final in 2016 but failed to make the playoffs this season.
Biello has been guaranteed a job in the organization but what it will be has not been determined. Midfielder Patrice Bernier, who has retired, is to work in the academy.
Garde said he has not yet gone over the Impact roster to start making decisions on players. He has three key assets — Belgian defender Laurent Ciman and designated players Ignacio Piatti and Blerim Dzemaili. Perhaps four with Canadian international midfielder Samuel Piette. It’s likely that everyone else will be up for review.