Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Firing season is here, which MLS coaches are the hunted?

The regular season might be over but the firing season has just begun. So which coaches are safe and who has a target on their back? Let’s take a look and see.

First, those who are safe:

Tom Soehn (DC United since 2007) - Had some trouble early but regrouped the team and made them into a force. A late season let down is disappointing but nothing close to deserving a pink slip.

Preki (Chivas USA since 2007) - With all the issues Amado Guevara caused early, it would have been easy for this team to fall apart, but Preki made them into true title contenders.

Dominic Kinnear (Houston Dynamo since 2006) - Another wonderful year from Kinnear. He has dealt with injuries well and has built a good bench. The only way he leaves is if he decided to leave for San Jose.

Bruce Arena (New York Red Bulls since mid-2006) - Unless he is pushing to get the US Women's job, the Bruce is staying in New York. The pickup of Ángel and Mathis now looks genius and the development of Altidore is great. Even a bomb against New England wouldn't result in his dismissal.

Curt Onalfo (Kansas City Wizards since 2007) - If KC was a bit more established and not looking at so many off the pitch issues (stadium, attendance, publicity, etc), the late season crash would have moved Onalfo into the maybe, but not likely list. However, with things the way they are and a playoff berth in hand, he is here for another year, which is good because I think he will develop some serious talent over the next few seasons.

Mo Johnston (Toronto FC since 2007) - Yes, his team had no able to score goals but they played some of the most passionate soccer in the whole league. Had it not been for injuries, they might have snuck into the playoffs. For a first year club, Mo put together something impressive, now can he make it grow?

Juan Carlos Osorio (Chicago Fire since mid-2007) - He hasn't been around long enough to fire plus he has handled Blanco well and the team improved after his hire.

Jason Kreis (Real Salt Lake since mid-2007) - Much like Osorio, he hasn't been around enough to get tossed plus Real showed some great improvement under his leadership.

So those are the guys that seem to be completely safe, but what about the other five bosses? Most of them will stay but one or maybe are probably done. Here is the way I see the other five:

Fernando Clavijo (Colorado Rapids since 2005)
Reasons he will be fired: The Rapids played some of the most boring and uninspiring soccer in the whole league. They constantly underperformed and for the first time since 2001, failed to reach post season. Clavijo hasn't shown much in the way of player development. They will humiliated 5-0 by Seattle in the US Open Cup quarterfinals. With the new stadium, this team needs some excitement on the pitch to keep people coming back.

Reasons he will stay: Um, let's see, the past two coaches all got four seasons so Clavijo should get one more. And maybe the Rapids don't want to spend the money to bring in anyone else and change the system.

Prediction: If Clavijo is still the coach next season, it is proof that the Rapids organization doesn't care about the game.

Sigi Schmid (Columbus Crew since 2006)
Reasons he will be fired: For the fourth season in a row the Crew have missed the playoffs and ended up in sixth place in the East. Through out the season, the team suffered from a lack of control late in matches. They picked up pace with the introduction of Schelotto, but Sigi couldn't make it last.

Reasons he will stay: The Crew did show progress over last season and with a couple moves, could be a playoff team in 2008. Also, the Hunts who are much more focused on FC Dallas own the Crew.

Prediction: Schmid should be gone but he'll probably get a reprieve.

Frank Yallop (LA Galaxy since mid-2006)
Reasons he will be fired: Two seasons in a row without making the playoffs. Due to trades this year, the team is in a tight spot when it comes to the designated player rule next year. Hard to be a 'Super Club' when you have a losing record. Lalas needs to blame someone.

Reasons he will stay: The late season run showed what the team can do. Had a number of injury woes plus the schedule was against him. Has a better understanding of how to handle the team (and the press).

Prediction: Unless Lalas can land someone big (hello Klinsmann), Yallop will stay. That is unless he decides to head up the coast to San Jose instead.

Steve Morrow (FC Dallas since 2007)
Reasons he will be fired: The team has underperformed this year. They had a chance to win the US Open Cup but failed even with home pitch advantage. The Denilson acquisition has been a flop.

Reason he will stay: The Hunts want a winner but even they understand that a coach needs more then one season to make everything come together.

Prediction: Morrow will stay but if 2008 doesn't start strong, he will be gone by July.

Steve Nicol (New England since 2002)
Reason he will be fired: Can't get the team over the final hurdle to win a MLS Cup.

Reasons he will stay: The Revs have been one of the best teams in the league since his arrival. Finally won a trophy with the US Open Cup. Is excellent at spotting and developing young talent. Knows the US game better then just about any other coach in the league.

Prediction: It seems weird to fire a good coach, but FC Dallas did it last year after Colin Clarke won the West but failed to bring home the MLS Cup or US Open Cup. If the Revs get knocked out in the first couple rounds (or worse, make it to the Cup again and fail), the organization might decide they need someone else to finally win the big prize. Still, I would be very surprised if Nicol wasn't still on the sidelines next season.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

I disagree with two of your picks for the "possible axe"- Nichol and Morrow.

Aside from Bruce Arena (and to a lesser extent, Bob Bradley), Nicol has been the most consistent MLS coach in its brief history. True, US Soccer is all about Cup tournaments and the Revs are perpetual bridesmaids, yet show me a coach who has won more games during Nichol's tenure. He has kept New England near the top despite rebuilding years and significant 1st team roster losses. Besides, does the front office want to face a rival team led by Nicol? If the MLS gave the crown to the season winners like most world leagues, Nicol would be at the top.

I'm also surprised at Morrow's inclusion. This was supposed to be a rebuilding year for the Hoops. Aside from picking up an injured Serioux and the Denilson blunder, he has done pretty well. Dallas is a talented, young team and if they can conjure something, anything for off loading Ruiz, they will be a much more dangerous team next season. Many preseason pundits expected Dallas to bottom dwell the West with RSL. Kudos to Morrow for helping them get this far. In my book, it is becoming more and more apparent that they overachieved.

Thanks for the list; they're fun to debate!

1:08 PM  

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