Portland’s John Spencer apparently on way out; examining the peril of expansion managers

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Most assistants desire to be a head coach, a chance to be the man, to cook up their own ideas, to stir in their own training concepts and implement their own personnel strategies.

So  they are often willing to take a flier when offered a chance to manage an expansion team, to step aggressively into the breach – even when the odds of long-term survival are historically quite slim.

Increasingly slim in Major League Soccer, it seems.

Portland Timbers owner Merritt Paulson has called a news conference for this evening. Practice was closed this morning, with reports in Oregon media that coach John Spencer wasn’t there.

(Update: Yep)

So the chances look quite high that Portland will soon be on to their second manager, which shouldn’t be surprising at all. Not because Spencer deserved it, but because the life span of original managers is typically, perilously short.

So while we all wonder “What do expansion club owners expect?” let’s look at the last eight MLS expansion clubs (all since Chicago in 1998, a different time in MLS) and what became of their original manager:

  • Chivas USA, 2005: After a 1–8–1 start (with the only win against another expansion club, Real Salt Lake), Thomas Rongen was reassigned within the organization in May, nine months after being named manager and just three months into the season.
  • Real Salt Lake, 2005: John Ellinger survived into his third season, although it was a struggle along the way. His first season finished with a 5-22-5 mark. Things improved in Year 2 (10-13-9) although RSL still didn’t make the playoffs (eight of 12 clubs reached the post-season then). Ellinger was replaced a month into his third season with an overall 15-37-16 record with the club.
  • Toronto FC, 2007: Mo Johnston lasted a full year but moved into a front office position before the next season. He was 6-17-7 at BMO Field.
  • San Jose, 2008: One of two success stories, as Frank Yallop remained in charge despite some down years. Looks like the club’s decision to remain loyal is paying off. In his case, Yallop had significant skins on the wall, so he had greater benefit of the doubt.
  • Seattle, 2009: The other real success story for the original manager in this group; Sigi Schmid remains the Sounders one and only coach.
  • Philadelphia, 2010: Peter Nowak came close to “making it,” building around young talent and making the playoffs in his second year at PPL Park. But he lost public faith this spring after a series of increasingly erratic personnel choices. Nowak was dismissed in June, four months into his third season.
  • Portland, 2011: John Spencer, with a two-year mark of 16-22-13, appears to be on his way out at Jeld-Wen Field.
  • Vancouver, 2011: The club retained Teitur Thordarson, who had been in charge during the club’s time in lower tiers. It always looked like a stretch, but the choice seemed somewhere between half-baked and just plain unfair when Thordarson was dismissed three months into his first season. The club won just once in his first twelve matches.
  • Montreal, 2012: Jesse Marsch, a first-time head coach, remains in charge as Montreal builds a highly respectable opening campaign, currently 8th among 10 Eastern Conference clubs.

More on the Spencer dismissal from ProSoccerTalk is here and here

Dempsey still happy to accept USMNT role (which is good)

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Clint Dempsey is tied with Landon Donovan for the most goals in USMNT history, and seems set to continue with the side in some capacity as he threatens to stand alone in American history.

[ MLS: Steve Bruce to Miami? ]

The 34-year-old striker spoke with Steve Zakuani on the Sounders’ web site (video below) and said he’s happy to accept continued call-ups should they arrive from USSF headquarters.

From SoundersFC.com:

“We’ll see what happens,” Dempsey said.” I mean, in terms of what I’ve been able to accomplish with the national team, I’m at peace with it. It’s not really about me. It’s about a group of guys that want to be moving forward.

“If there’s an opportunity that comes where you get to play a role and try to help and I’m feeling good and I’m playing well, then yeah, you’ll never say no. But you know, if the call never comes I’m still happy, still at peace, and focused on being here and trying to make the most of the time I have left.”

There are a number of players whose national team futures should be in question, but Dempsey is in a different class. No one has debated his motor or fuel, and his engine is still there (to complete the Springsteen-esque car comparisons, he remains one of the only things that qualifiers as chrome-wheeled, fuel-injected, and steppin’ out over the line).

If anything, he plays too close to the edge. That’s not something I see as one of the Yanks’ problems right now, so perhaps Dempsey needs to be viewed like Cuauhtemoc Blanco or Carlos Ruiz as a CONCACAF guy who’s around as long as he wants to be a part of it.

I mean, shoot, if Dempsey wants to keep passing the fire to Christian Pulisic and now Weston McKennie, there are far worse ambassadors for the program. He’s the most accomplished field player in recent history, and will be able to share so much when it comes to balancing club and country.

Heck, maybe he needs to be the late era Ryan Giggs of the 2018-2022 USMNT.

Beckham reportedly wants Steve Bruce in Miami

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He’s got the same initials as South Beach, you know?

Steve Bruce is being tipped to be the first manager of David Beckham’s Miami MLS outfit, according to The Sun.

[ MORE: Saturday’s PL roundup ]

It’s going to be some time before Bruce would have the opportunity. The 56-year-old former Manchester United star has Aston Villa in a Football League Championship promotion push, and Miami does not even have a start date for life on an MLS pitch.

Of course, managerial life tends to be short, so there’s no guarantee Bruce will have a job at any point during the build-up to Miami in MLS. And several expansion clubs have named their coach very early in the team building process (Jason Kreis and Bob Bradley amongst others).

Bruce on MLS’ parity-driven playing field, if not as one of the big spenders, would be intriguing to watch. He’s a terrific man motivator and has the connections to combine with Beckham to make something special happen in terms of personnel.

PL Sunday preview: Wayward Watford welcome woeful West Ham

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In a reversal of roles, based on preseason projections at least, Watford welcome West Ham United to Vicarage Road on Sunday (Watch live, 11 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com) for a clash of mid-table climbers and relegation fighters, respectively.

[ MORE: Saturday’s PL roundup — Man Utd, Chelsea win big… so do Man City ]

Watford began the 2017-18 Premier League season in fine form, winning four of their first eight games and losing just one (to runaway leaders Manchester City, no less). In their last three games, however, the Hornets have conceded eight goals, while scoring just four themselves, and winning zero points. Coincidentally — nor not, perhaps — that three-game slide began at the same time Watford manager Marco Silva‘s name was linked with the vacant manager’s job at Everton. With Ronald Koeman fired almost four weeks ago now, Watford have rejected approach after approach from Everton owner Farhad Moshiri. Silva, for his first three months of efforts, has been roundly praised by the club’s supporters and players alike.

“Everybody could see he changed a lot of things in the team. We had quite a lot of the same players but we improved a lot,” defender Christian Kabasele said this week. “When you have somebody like this and other teams are looking for him it’s important that Watford try to do everything possible to keep him.”

West Ham, meanwhile, started the season poorly and have remained equally so in recent weeks. Slaven Bilic was subsequently fired two weeks and succeeded by David Moyes, who had been out of a job since guiding Sunderland to relegation at the end of last season. Sunday’s bout with Watford will see Moyes make his debut for West Ham, the fourth club to employ him since leaving Everton four and a half years ago. To make matters more difficult, the Hammers’ leading scorer, Javier Hernandez (4 goals), won’t be available after picking up an injury on international duty.

“It’s a clean slate for the entire squad,” Moyes said last week. “They’ve all worked very hard this week and responded in a positive manner to everything we’ve asked of them. It will obviously take time for the players to fully understand our style and methods but the initial signs are very encouraging — they’ve bought in what we are trying to do and that’s a good base for us to build on.”

INJURIES: Watford — OUT: Troy Deeney (suspension), Nathaniel Chalobah (knee), Isaac Success (knee); QUESTIONABLE: Younes Kaboul (hamstring), Sebastian Prodl (hamstring), Roberto Pereyra (hamstring) | West Ham — OUT: Javier Hernandez (hamstring), James Collins (ankle), Sam Byram (thigh), Jose Fonte (foot); QUESTIONABLE: Michail Antonio (ribs)

The 2 Robbies: North London Painted Red

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In today’s pod, the Robbies heap praise on Arsenal’s impressive performance in the North London Derby (00:30), analyze Manchester United’s 4-1 win against Newcastle on the back of Paul Pogba’s return (10:00), ask if this Man City side is the best Premier League side ever (18:25), debate where Kevin De Bruyne’s current form ranks in the league’s greatest ever players (23:45) and pick the best summer signing so far this season (27:15; hint, hint – he might be leading the league in scoring).

Join Earle & Mustoe on The 2 Robbies Football Show, Saturdays at 5pm ET. Listen on the NBCSports Radio App and call 855-323-4622 in the U.S. for lively passionate debate.

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