Guillermo Barros Schelotto

The MLS coaching carousel is about to get cray-cray-crazy!

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This will be the most fascinating MLS off-season yet in terms of managerial shakeup and shake-out. Some positions are already open – although it is difficult to tell exactly how many, which is part of the ongoing fun.

Either way, others will almost certainly come open.

Let’s get this managerial wheel a’spinnin’ and see where it lands:

It’s hard to know how many coaching seats are open already because Columbus and San Jose are under interim direction. (Well, as San Jose manager Mark Watson cleverly observed about his profession, they are pretty much all “interim” managers, aren’t they?)

Watson took a struggling team at Buck Shaw Stadium, 3-6-6 at the time, and took it right to the edge of the playoffs. The side was 10-5-3 under Watson, some of that surely about getting some important players healthy. So, get a new manager now? Or does Watson get a year before the Earthquakes 3.0 (my words, not the club’s) move into their spanking new ground in 2015?

It wouldn’t be surprising if the Earthquakes wait a year. It seems less likely that Columbus will retain interim manager Brian Bliss, not in his current role, at least. New ownership is sure to look for a signature hire, as this is Anthony Precourt’s first big opportunity to make a decisive, aggressive move, to show where he wants to take the club.

Besides, it looks like the club has already interviewed Guillermo Barros Schelotto (pictured above). That’s according to a story in The Columbus Dispatch, and when it comes to Crew Stadium legends, Schelotto’s name is at the top of every Columbus fan’s list. It certainly should be.

FC Dallas, looking to replace Schellas Hyndman, seems intent on taking its time. But with important roster choices ahead (most MLS contracts expire Dec. 1, and the club has options on which to decide for several players), and with other player personnel elements to work through, wouldn’t it makes sense to get it done sooner rather than later?

source: Getty ImagesBy the way, I spoke to FC Dallas departing manager over the weekend. I always believed that he could manage as long as he liked in Dallas, owing to his special relationship with the Hunt Family. Not only did Hyndman know, love and respect domestic soccer pioneer Lamar Hunt for years, he coached Clark Hunt in college. Hyndman didn’t tell me that he was forced out … but listening to him discuss the situation, he sure didn’t sound like a man who was resigning on his own or retiring.

In Chicago, it seems fair to wonder if Frank Klopas’ job depends on him making the playoffs. You have to squint really hard to find much to like about his time as a technical director or a manager (having put himself in that position mid-stream in 2011, after ownership dismissed a man that Klopas (pictured, right) presumably helped to hire, Carlos de los Cobos).

The team, frankly, didn’t respond well to Arne Friedrich’s season-long injury. Questionable personnel decisions (Sherjill MacDondald, anyone?) and the inability to get more out of Chris Rolfe won’t help Klopas make a case.

John Hackworth at Philadelphia? Yeah, he’s still got a pretty young team, but the team’s grinding style cannot be called a selling point for the PPL Park faithful who continue to show up in a dodgy neighborhood for soccer that can get pretty hard on the eyes. Plus, playoff soccer has drifted steadily from view since early summer.

The Washington Post’s Steven Goff recently reported that Ben Olsen would keep his job at RFK Stadium, although it’s still fair to wonder how fans of the Black and Red feel about such a thing? It seems dreadfully hard to sell it to the supporters considering a season that will go down, statistically speaking at very least, as one of the worst campaigns every witnessed in Major League Soccer. (It’s even harder to fathom how roster architect Dave Kasper will remain in employment, but there it is.)

source: Getty ImagesWho knows what will happen with Ryan Nelsen at Toronto? It seems unfair to fire the guy, who put an early end to his playing career to take over at BMO Field upon Kevin Payne’s request. Well, Payne is no longer in charge, so …

Rumors have persisted that perhaps former Earthquakes boss Frank Yallop (pictured, left) could be in position for this one (at TFC). Remember, the man in charge at BMO Field, Tim Leiweke, once helped hired Yallop at Los Angeles. Of course, Yallop has long been mentioned as Rennie’s possible successor at Vancouver if the Whitecaps make that anticipated change.

Speaking of a potential Cascadia Comeupance, the Sounders have made the playoffs, having sneaked in with the back-up lights on. But Sigi Schmid surely has to advance through one series, at very, very least, to keep the Washington wolves at safe distance.

Chivas USA is always a wildcard. Jose Luis Real could stick around. Or they could hire, I dunno, Diego Maradona! Or that character from the kid’s cartoon Go, Diego, Go for all we know. Or Guus Hiddink! Seriously, who knows what wackiness or pleasant surprises could fall from the Chivas tree of unpredictability?

And we’ll finish this odd (and yet fascinating) trot around the league here: the coaching carousel will spin that much faster if Real Salt Lake manager Jason Kreis takes the NYCFC position. That would open up a great position at Real Salt Lake, a team blessed with young talent and an owner who doesn’t mind spending prudently.

“Pretty unreal, a fairy tale” — Alonso, Marshall celebrate Sounders title

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Talk about penalty kicks all you want, and definitely talk about that save, but Seattle’s formative heart kept Toronto FC’s vaunted attack off the scoreboard to win its first MLS Cup final.

Veterans Chad Marshall, Osvaldo Alonso, Stefan Frei, and Roman Torres simply got the job done against Sebastian Giovinco, Jozy Altidore and the high-flying Reds.

“We knew what a great offensive team they are,” Marshall said. “Giovinco and Jozy are incredible. The amount of goals they put up this postseason is pretty ridiculous, so to keep them off the board for 120 minutes is incredible.”

[ MLS CUP: Seattle wins in PKs | 3 things ]

The man in front of him, Alonso, was a prime reason for that. Countless connecting passes and perfect spacing limited TFC’s chances with the ball. After an MVP caliber season, you could argue that Alonso deserved just as much of a shout for MLS Cup MVP as winner Frei.

“In the final you have to give everything you have to win,” Alonso said. “I step on the field to play for my team, play for myself, and play for my family. And I think I did that.”

Both Alonso and Marshall spoke of the moments following Torres’ match-winning PK, as the Sounders crew flew down to pitch to celebrate in front of a rave green and blue visitors section high above BMO Field.

[ MORE: Bradley apologizes to fans ]

[ MORE: Altidore, Frei on that save ]

“I think I threw my back out on the run to Roman, and he flew right by me,” Marshall said. “It was just nuts. I lost my voice in a matter of 20 seconds. It’s just so exciting.”

Alonso was filled with pride for the fans at the game, and the ones back in Seattle who stood by the Sounders after a midseason coaching change.

“They deserved this, the trophy, because they are always there for us,” Alonso said. “Even when we were down at the bottom of the table. This trophy means a lot for me.”

Marshall admitted the words weren’t coming to him, even an hour after the game.

“I don’t know if I can. It’s an incredible feeling, from where we in July, the Kansas City game, to this moment right now, it’s pretty unreal, a fairy tale.”

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Bradley lauds “fearless” teammates after heart-wrenching MLS Cup loss

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Michael Bradley paused to collect himself, several times actually, before apologizing to Toronto FC’s supporters.

The game of football, with its soaring highs and gutting lows, was the latter now. TFC had dominated Seattle over a lackluster 120 minutes, Bradley engineered several big interventions and some delightful balls that didn’t have an end product.

[ MLS CUP: Seattle wins in PKs | 3 things ]

Much of that won’t be remembered, though, because Bradley passed his penalty kick right into the path of a waiting Stefan Frei. Surrounded by reporters in the TFC locker room, Bradley chose his words carefully.

“When you put everything you have into something, when you come in every day ready to pour your heart and soul into something, the highs are amazing and emotional and incredible in a positive ways,” Bradley said. “And the setbacks… hit you hard. Every guy here is going to have to take the time to get over this one, to let it hurt, let it frustrate you, let it anger you.

“It’s not for the weak, and you see that on nights like tonight.”

[ MORE: Altidore, Frei on that save ]

Bradley was one of the final men to emerge from the showers at BMO Field, and he answered every question with brutal honesty.

“On behalf of the team, we can only thank every person in this city for their support and for the passion and the emotion and the energy that they put into this, together with us,” he said. “I’m sick to my stomach that we couldn’t reward them with the biggest trophy tonight.”

In defeat, it was easy to see why TFC’s locker room is drawn to its captain. Bradley shirked nothing, answering the tough questions and humoring those who would lob softballs about his family.

Among the former was this response, one of those quotes that moves a team into formation.

“The margins are so small, and on nights like this you have no choice but to go for it,” he said. “We talked about having a group of guy who were gonna, on the biggest of nights, be fearless and go after things in an aggressive way. And we did that. We were strong, brave, and went after the game in a really, really hard away from the first minute right up until the 120th minute.”

That Bradley missed a PK will howl to the moon in Toronto to the wee hours of this Sunday morning, and his critics will be happy to join in. But as the 29-year-old prepares for a winter that could see him head across an ocean before returning for World Cup qualifying and another MLS season, Toronto can be happy to put its faith — and its backbone — in No. 4.

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Altidore, Frei react to “that save” after Sounders claim MLS Cup

TORONTO, ONTARIO - DECEMBER 10:  Stefan Frei #24 of the Seattle Sounders stops Michael Bradley #4 of the Toronto FC during the penalty kick phase during the 2016 MLS Cup at BMO Field on December 10, 2016 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Seattle defeated Toronto in the 6th round of extra time penalty kicks. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)
Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images
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When it comes down to it, Jozy Altidore and Toronto FC were inches away from becoming MLS Cup champions.

The man who walked away with MLS Cup MVP was the reason they didn’t.

[ WATCH: Frei’s big save ]

Deep in extra time, Altidore leapt high to loft a header toward the far post. Frei adjusted his body for one dramatic lunge, just slapping the ball toward Roman Torres for a clear.

“(Altidore) does the right thing because he goes against the way that I’m coming from, and that point you just move your feet as quick as you can see what’s possible,” Frei said.

Altidore thought it was in.

“I thought so,” he said. “It was a tough ball to begin with. … It was a hell of a save. At the end of the day you’ve got to pull off something special.”

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Three things we learned from Seattle Sounders’ MLS Cup triumph

Seattle Sounders players chase defender Roman Torres (29) after he scored the game-winning shootout goal to defeat the Toronto FC during shoot out MLS Cup soccer final action in Toronto on Saturday, December 10, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Mark Blinch/The Canadian Press via AP)
THE CANADIAN PRESS/Mark Blinch/The Canadian Press via AP
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MLS Cup 2016 was the most well-played game of soccer all year — far from it, in fact — but the Seattle Sounders are MLS champions for the first time in their eight-year history anyway.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS Cup coverage ]

Three thoughts on a poorly-played, but thoroughly intense 2016 finale…

A cup final, it most certainly was

The numbers of cup finals which feature brilliant, composed attacking play is hugely outweighed by the number of cup finals featuring a total lack thereof. Whether it was down to nerves, the frigid conditions in which the game was played, or a combination of the two, Saturday’s final at BMO Field was yet another example of the latter.

The telling stats: 40 fouls between the two sides (just three yellow cards shown); zero first-half shots attempted by the Sounders, and just three shots in total over 120 minutes (zero on target).

The only moment of true quality came in the 108th minute, when Stefan Frei made the best save you’ve seen all year to deny Jozy Altidore and keep the Sounders on level terms (WATCH HERE).

Michael Bradley, man of the match (until his PK)

As we’ve come to expect, Bradley was anywhere and everywhere on the field for TFC, at all the right times. With Osvaldo Alonso playing the part of warrior in the Sounders midfield, and Jonathan Osorio’s attacking prowess preferred to the defensive chops of Will Johnson alonside Bradley, it was up to the U.S. national team captain to singlehandedly track and mark Nicolas Lodeiro out of the game. He did just that, and so much more.

Then, came his penalty kick, TFC’s second, which was hit with so little pace and no more than three feet to Frei’s left for the easiest save he’d make all night.

The greatest comeback in MLS history

You’ve heard it all by now, but it doesn’t make what the Sounders did from August to December any less remarkable — from ninth place on the day Sigi Schmid was fired (two days before Lodeiro arrived), to the MLS summit in four and a half months. Clint Dempsey, the Sounders’ highest-paid player, was then lost for the rest of the season a month later (irregular heartbeat). No team in MLS history had ever overcome a points gap that large (10) that late in the season to even qualify for the playoffs, let alone advance in said playoffs, reach MLS Cup, and lift the trophy.

Brian Schmetzer, a Seattle native and member of the Sounders family since his own playing days beginning in 1980, replaced Schmid with (presumably) the idea that he’d see out the lost season as interim head coach before making way for a big-name hire this winter. He won eight of his first 14 games as a head coach instead, led the Sounders to the four-seed in the Western Conference, and delivered to his hometown the ultimate prize on Saturday.

Watching the Portland Timbers lift MLS Cup 2015 was undoubtedly the toughest pill to swallow for anyone in Rave Green, but to end their Cascaida Cup rivals’ reign as defending champions by winning that very piece of silverware themselves … that’s a one-up that’ll last a lifetime.