Let’s be clear about something: Major League Soccer managers have a lot on their plate. Most are just renting the office space, as we know; managers are hired to be fired, as they say.
So an MLS manager’s obligation more or less starts and finishes with winning games. Nowhere in his job description is assisting players with World Cup roster pursuit.
Obviously, if it works out that way, it’s a good thing to do. This is the province of the “players’ coach,” the manager that makes choices and runs day-t0-day operations in a way that enhances his or her relationships with players.
But there is a only small window of opportunity, where those aims may cross over.
In Columbus, manager Gregg Berhalter (pictured) has said Michael Parkhurst is a center back, but that he may deploy the returning MLS man at right back if it helps Parkhurst remove himself from the bubble. It’s a swell gesture, and maybe it’ll work out.
But Berhalter is a first-year MLS manager, for a new owner who has tremendous ambition, no less. That means real pressure to win. The guess here: a loss or two early around Crew Stadium and Berhalter will zero in quickly on the reality of the situation: he needs his best players in the positions where they best help the Columbus Crew. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.
Brad Evans, the starting U.S. right back at the moment, will play in midfield for Seattle. That’s a little different situation since DeAndre Yedlin is the incumbent (and quite promising) right back around CenturyLink. There’s not much to be decided with that one.
Clint Dempsey is likely to line up with similar responsibilities for club as for country. But if Seattle manager Sigi Schmid has something else in mind, he shouldn’t worry about what’s best for the national team. This year is surely make or break for Schmid, and he knows it. He doesn’t have the luxury of accommodating national team best-case scenarios.
Looks like Michael Bradley will play further back in the midfield alignment for Toronto FC than he does for the national team. Fair enough on that one, too; the team paid handsomely for its new captain, so coach Ryan Nelsen has every right to slot in Bradley where he darn well sees fit.
There’s one more U.S. international whose positioning on the field will be an issue … we’ll get into that one in the next post.