MLS Coaches’ Listings (e.g. Endangered, Threatened, etc.)

With it looking a whole lot like no current head coach in Major League Soccer (MLS) will lose their job by the end of the year, now seems a good time to look at who might suffer the fatal blow after the(ir respective team’s) season ends. Coming after the season, this is less a “hot seat” phenomenon than a coup de grace for a career that sloughed its mortal coil at some point in the season. The transitional nature of the off-season, when re-tooling represents a norm of sorts, might even expand the pool of candidates for the sack. For what it’s worth, I think it should; if I worked a front office, I’d certainly mull over a new direction – especially if an early exit from, or missing the playoffs altogether, afforded a little more time for such considerations.

Before getting into potential candidates for “spending more time with their families,” I’ll start by listing the coaches whose tenures seem safe: Tom Soehn (DC United); Dominic Kinnear (Houston Dynamo); Preki (Chivas USA); Juan Carlos Osorio (Chicago Fire); Bruce Arena (Red Bull New York); Jason Kreis (Real Salt Lake). Yeah, I know: Jason Kreis? I’m fairly confident he’ll get more time – e.g. one year at least to build his team – before being judged against his record. As for the rest, call those 100%, dead certain. (DISCLAIMER: barring changes in health (e.g. heart attack), lifestyle (e.g. becoming trans-gender), social sanity (e.g. saying in a public space “’Minority A’ makes me uncomfortable.”)

By now, you may picked up on some curious omissions from the above. As I see it, the realm of possibility should be pretty roomy (though, clearly, not roomy enough to include Kreis). Put another way, five games to go (give or take) means changes in circumstance remain relevant.

With that in mind, I have listed the remaining MLS coaches below flagging each as either “watch-list,” “threatened,” or “endangered” (can’t imagine the inspiration for that one). In the comments, I’ll get to details like how a given coach can move from the watch-list to threatened status and why I think this coach or that is endangered. And, so, going from the least at-risk population to the most:

1) Steve Morrow, FC Dallas: Watch-List
This one depends on the extent of Clark Hunt’s ambition. The problem comes with the clear potential that FC Dallas will end 2007 the way they ended 2005, 2006 – and possibly before that: start great then….slowly…fade….away. I think Morrow gets another year, so I’d be surprised if he got the ax. Assuming he did, though, the reasons for termination would add up pretty easily – i.e. he’s not up to overcoming Dallas’ history. His escape clause: winning any cup – e.g. the U.S. Open Cup.

2) Kurt Onalfo, Kansas City Wizards: Watch-List
This is pretty straight-forward: if KC misses the post-season for the third straight year – and, hey, it could happen – I think Onalfo has problems. Not huge problems, but problems all the same. Assuming he does stick around, I bet they’ll rein in no-off-switch attacking impulse…or make him trade for better defensive players.

3) Steve Nicol, New England Revolution: Watch-List
I can hear it now: are you crazy? And, yeah, there’s a little wish-fulfillment in here…though, that’s admittedly mingled with a healthy dose of fear that ditching Nicol could end with a weaker replacement. To be clear, though, I’m willing to take that chance. But Nicol has yet to get the Revs over the top and that’s after three shots at it. Add a fourth, or even a first-round capitulation in the playoffs and he could go in the off-season. Even here, though, I suspect he’ll just start 2008 on the hot seat. (DISCLAIMER: Rumors that the Krafts totally lack ambition where the Revs are concerned do play a role here, one that would save Nicol’s butt so long as he keeps building entirely serviceable teams on the cheap.)

4) Mo Johnston, Toronto FC: Threatened
Johnston’s probably the biggest stretch what with the “threatened” rating, but he’s also a commodity who has proved in all the wrong ways over time. His self-cultivated reputation for never being satisfied could rescue him in the short-term – he gripes about his players to anyone who will listen…and that’s before angling for a trade in the next breath – but, even allowing for expansion blues, those scoreless minutes without end suggests something fundamental reeks up in Toronto. And, as coach, Johnston could very well pay for that. Let’s just say I wouldn’t give Mo another year.

5) Sigi Schmid, Columbus Crew: Endangered
With Columbus looking likely to miss their third straight post-season, I’m thinking Schmid’s fate matches his team’s – i.e. if they fail, he goes. That’s not a 100% proposition, mind you; it’s probably closer to 75%. And, of course, if the Crew make the playoffs, he’s safe – which makes it too bad the odds of the Crew making the playoffs kinda suck as well. Personally, I wouldn’t want either set of odds and doubt Schmid does either.

6) Fernando Clavijo, Colorado Rapids: Endangered
Now we’re really in the shit. If Clavijo Rapids don’t make the playoffs, he’s toast – burnt toast at that. Hell, if the Rapids don’t win MLS Cup, I suspect the organization fires him on principle for “leading” his team through a friggin’ awful, barely-watchable regular season that probably went some distance in killing attendance at The Dick. Of all the coaching purges not made, this one strikes me as the biggest mystery…and, yes, that includes even…

7) Frank Yallop, LA Galaxy: Endangered
Yallop might be pushing extinct at this point. At the same time, I think he has an escape clause that goes by the name of Alexi Lalas. Here’s how that might work: when the Galaxy FO sits down to decide about next season, it’s possible (however unlikely – tee hee hee, nerd alert!) they’ll consider the potential difficulty of finding a coach willing to work under Mad Alexi, a man whose relationships with his coaches brings to mind words like “strained” and “dysfunctional.” In other words, they may decide to dump Lalas and see what Yallop can do with a stable squad, sane schedule, and less frenzied hoopla. And I could see Yallop going for that. There’s also the possibility that Yallop will jump – say, to San Jose – obviating any need for a push. Another possible outcome: both Yallop and Lalas go. To go on record, I think dumping Lalas remains the smartest option with dumping both Yallop and Lalas coming in second – arguably a close one.

3 Responses

  1. As far as Clavijo and the Rapids, I am worried that the team’s definition of success is “Made the playoffs.” If the Rapids make the playoffs, then he has been successful three years in a row. The club doesn’t want to spend what they need to spend to win a championship so I’m not sure there are a lot of options for them after Clavijo. Times are bleak for Rapids fans.

  2. There’s an interesting theoretical level in play between New England and Colordao; they’re just separated by a few degrees – i.e. “entirely serviceable” gets New England into an MLS Cup or three (two of those as underdogs), while the Rapids only go to “playoff capable.” Neither club shows much ambition about getting beyond: Clavijo has his trading spazzes, while Nicol insists the draft solves everything.

    But, yeah, you guys have it worse. No question.

  3. As a Galaxy fan, I’m more of a let Lalas go at this point than Frank. Idk but it seems that the boys have just given up at this point and there isn’t much Yallop can do, although I do question some of the moves he has made in recent games. Lalas has driven this team into the ground with all his idiotic trades. Make him the head p.r. guy or something for next season and get a GM that actually knows the business.

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