Tuesday, September 14, 2010 |
This past winter, five MLS teams hired coaches.
For the second time this year, one of them was fired.
For the second time this year, it was one with previous MLS experience.
Curt Onalfo and Preki have a trend in common. Their teams have progressively gotten worse. This leads me to this question; is MLS player talent passing MLS coaching and front office talent?
In 2007, Onalfo led KC to a fifth place finish in the East with 40 points; in 2008, a fourth place finish (42); in 2009, a sixth place finish (33). In 2010, he was fired when DC was in 8th place on pace for a mere 20 points.
Similarly, in 2007, Preki, using a team largely put together by Bob Bradley, led Chivas to finish first with in the west with 53 points. In 2008, they finished second (43). In 2009, they finished fourth (45). In 2010, Toronto was on pace for 35 points.
If the trend stopped there, it wouldn’t be much of a trend, but looking at current list of MLS coaches, a couple of other names stick out; Frank Yallop and Steve Nicol.
Yallop won two MLS Cups with San Jose in their first incarnation, but in two seasons with the Galaxy and now three with the new Earthquakes has yet to secure better than fifth place in the West.
Nicol’s success in New England is well documented, but trend of the Revolution since the advent of the Designated Player Rule doesn’t look that much different than that of Preki.
Looking back at video from MLS matches four years ago, the difference in playing level compared to today’s matches is clear. The competitive balance in MLS ensures a certain level of equality. So, teams or managers that have been on down trends while the league as a whole has been on an uptrend likely have institutional questions. But, it is not a question of designated players, as RSL and Columbus have both proven effective without them, while teams like DC and Toronto have struggled with them. It is not a question of being on the frugal side, as a resurgent Dallas is now showing. It is primarily a question of effectively culling talent from a growing foreign and domestic talent pool and implementing game plans to be competitive.
Some MLS organizations have navigated these new waters well, while some have severe leaks, or have capsized completely. To me, the initial hirings of Onalfo and Preki were inconsistent with where the league is going. As much as anything, their firings are a sign that the league is growing faster than the management and coaching.