This has certainly been a period of managerial transition like none other in Major League Soccer. Want an example of how much?
Guys that we didn’t even know have been fired (or dismissed, or having “parted ways” or been placed on freakin’ “gardening leave” or whatever) are now being replaced.
It happened today when Frank Klopas, recently dismissed a Chicago, was named to replace Marco Schallibaum. Which wouldn’t be such a big deal – except that Montreal had somehow managed to (mostly) slip it past everyone that Schallibaum would not be brought back.
In all, 9 of 19 MLS coaching seats changed hands this year (Chivas USA more than once, in fact.)
At any rate, here is the cheat sheet of MLS managerial comings and goings in 2013.
Out during the regular season:
Chivas USA’s José Luis Sánchez (May)
San Jose Frank Yallop (June)
Columbus Crew’s Robert Warzycha (September)
Out since the end of the season (or very close to it)
FC Dallas’ Schellas Hyndman
Vancouver’s Martin Rennie
Chivas USA’s José Luis Real
Chicago’s Frank Klopas
Real Salt Lake’s Jason Kreis
Montreal’s Marco Schallibaum
Replacements now in charge
Mark Watson in San Jose (promoted from interim in late October)
Gregg Berhalter at Columbus
Jason Kreis at New York City FC (begins play in MLS in 2015)
Frank Yallop (pictured above) at Chicago
Carl Robinson at Vancouver
Frank Klopas at Montreal
Jobs that remain vacant
Real Salt Lake
Updated list of MLS coaching dismissals (plus the ongoing dismissal “watch list”)
His dismissal (and make no mistake, the man didn’t choose to quit on his own) was announced with two matches remaining. Boiling it down: He never got the personnel right in 2013, and remained loyal to a diminished David Ferreira for way too long.
Vancouver Whitecaps – Martin Rennie: Out on Oct. 28
His record in two years fell just below .500, and failing to make the playoffs this year (missed it by two spots in the MLS West standings, in fact) was the final nail. Boiling it down: His personnel choices were all over the place.
Chicago Fire – Frank Klopas: Out on Oct. 29
It was a bit of a house cleaning at Toyota Park; Klopas (pictured above) is out along with president of soccer operations Javier Leon were jettisoned, and more front office axes may soon fall. The club could have kicked Klopas back upstairs to his former role as technical director, his position until moving to the bench in 2011. Boiling it down: Similar to Dallas, too many questionable personnel moves.
Columbus Crew – Brian Bliss: The interim manager apparently will not be retained. The team has not officially said so, but it seems clear from their impressive wish list of candidates that they want something different. Something splashier, too.
Mark Watson – San Jose Earthquakes: His team’s big push for the post-season will probably be sufficient convince Earthquakes’ leaders to give their interim man a chance in 2014. Word of warning, though: they must quality for next year’s playoffs, or the organization will definitely want a name hire ahead of the new stadium opening in 2015.
MLS managerial employment WATCH LIST
Seattle Sounders – Sigi Schmid: Seems like advancing past tonight’s elimination match is an absolute must. Perhaps even getting into the conference finals will be needed for a club with such big ambition.
D.C. United – Ben Olsen: Club leaders have indicated that Olsen will hold onto his job. That’s a tough sell to fans, seeing as the club just became, statistically speaking, the worst team in MLS history. Still, it would be nice to see what Olsen could do with a better roster. Tough to say how much of the awful personnel choices around RFK are his fault.
Philadelphia – John Hackworth: On the plus side, his team has lots of young talent, some of which just wasn’t quite ready this year. On the minus side, that long, slow, late-season fade was tough on the eyes. So is the style around PPL Park.
Toronto FC – Ryan Nelsen: It doesn’t seem fair to the first-year head coach to bring him over, have him manage through high-level organizational changeover and then let him go. But who knows? A record of 6-17-11 and ninth-place finish out of 10 is never going to provide the most stable of footing.
Chivas USA – Jose Luis Real: Seriously, who knows what the Goats erratic ownership will come up with next, strategy-wise?
Why Martin Rennie failed in Vancouver … and a warning for the Whitecaps:
Martin Rennie just proved that it takes more than a good soccer mind to get it right in MLS.
Rennie knows the game and always seemed equipped with the tactical acumen to make some hay in MLS. He had certainly done so previously in domestic soccer’s lower tiers with the Carolina Railhawks.
But Xs and Os only work when a manager gets the personnel calls right, and that was Rennie’s failing.
You never quite know who might be pulling strings behind the scenes (or who is chiefly shaping the roster at a larger level). Either way, Rennie’s choices really were all over the road, sometimes with little logic behind them. (Or, perhaps, without transparency. And if a manager isn’t communicating his thoughts on why fill-in-the-blank plays here instead of there, or why Tommy gets the start instead of Timmy, we can only assume that he’s playing hunches or hatching half-baked plans).
Player selection really is where it begins and ends with managers. It’s not “tactics” so much as identifying the tactics that best fit the personnel. It’s really about picking the right guys and then setting them up for success. And that’s where Rennie never quite seemed to get it right in Vancouver.
There’s a lot of young talent around BC Place, for instance – but also questions aplenty about why we didn’t see a little more of them, a little more Russell Tiebert or Kekuta Manneh or others in 2013?
We saw Darren Mattocks in and out of the lineup, too. Perhaps it’s not Rennie’s fault, exactly, but the young forward’s upside seems so tantalizingly vast – and you wonder if it is being developed properly?
And then there’s Gershon Koffie, who has so much promise – but curiously started just 21 games this year. Plus, shifting midfield roles never quite allowed the 22-year-old Ghanaian settle into a comfortable groove.
When the right guys were on the field, there were too many times when they just didn’t seem to find the right placements. Creatively inclined Daigo Kobayashi needed to be in the middle; by the time he finally got there, it was too late. (Rennie lost fan support and probably damaged his relationship with upper management by not offering a credible explanation for that one.)
Nigel Reo-Coker seemed well suited for the center of the park, or for a slightly offset role, where he spent most of the year. But right back? He didn’t play there much, but he did sometimes look like a fish out of water when assigned to that less suitable role.
Like so many of Rennie’s choice, it just looked … weird. A Premier League midfielder, asked to play at right back? Surely there was a better way around that one, a better way to keep Reo-Coker closer to his strongest role?
Injuries definitely affected the bottom line, particularly the crusher to inspirational center back Jay DeMerit just minutes into the 2013 season.
Then again, every team deals with injuries. What every team doesn’t do is fade toward the end. In 2012, the Whitecaps were a healthy 9-5-5 on July 20 (even without DeMerit). They finished on a 2-8-5 slide.
This year, Rennie’s bunch was 7-3-5 in late June. They finished on a 5-9-4 slide.
When a team finishes going the wrong way once, it might be an accident. Two in a row is starting to look like an uncomfortable trend. Enough of the ownership, apparently divided on this choice, according to reports, was apparently convinced so.
In a league built on parity, maximizing the talent on hand is the bottom line. Possible catchy MLS managers’ mantra: “Use it wise if you want to survive.”
All that said, here is the warning: The Whitecaps are about to be on their fourth manager … hardly a convincing track record for a club just finishing its third MLS season.
Teitur Thordarson didn’t last long enough, about three months into his first season as an MLS coach, to make even half the league stops. (Too bad, too … Utah is vastly underrated as an MLS destination!) Tom Soehn became interim manager; but it’s always awkward with the technical director fires the coach and then names himself as replacement, even if it’s just on interim basis. Next came Rennie, and he’s gone now.
Does this remind anyone of another Canadian club, one on the perpetual merry-go-round of remodeling? Yes, Vancouver Whitecaps, you are wading a little too close to the Toronto FC zone.
The writing was all over the BC Place wall for Vancouver Whitecaps boss Martin Rennie, who is apparently out of time with the Western Conference club.
Failure to make the MLS playoffs is a big red flag in a league where over half the teams advance into the post-season. (Rennie’s Whitecaps finished two spots out of the running this year.)
Although the Whitecaps’ record improved slightly in Rennie’s second year in charge, his record over two seasons (24-25-19) just wasn’t good enough. Last week’s comments coming out of the club’s front office certainly had the sound of an organization that was fresh out of patience.
The fact that Cascadia rival Seattle keeps making the playoffs wasn’t making anyone feel better about a manager that couldn’t quite eclipse the .500 barrier. And the team’s other Cascadia rival, Portland, is a bunch of folks’ favorites to take the whole shebang – so that certainly didn’t help either.
Oh … and Frank Yallop was available. That might have been the final blow; Yallop remains well thought of, and his Canadian roots apparently made this one an easy choice for the Whitecaps’ deciders.
It sounds like a decision on the future of Whitecaps coach Martin Rennie will happen sooner rather than later.
The club finishes its regular season Sunday at BC Place, and the topic du jour in British Columbian soccer circles will certainly be whether Rennie, who just completed his second year in charge, and whose team failed to make the playoffs, should have more time to get things right?
So it’s hard to say how much gristle might be trimmed away. But if we listen today to Lenarduzzi, it does not sound good for Rennie. In an interview with Vancouver radio station TEAM 1040 on Tuesday, Lenarduzzi first delivers the standard management lines about evaluating everything and ongoing assessments and such. But then …
I would say that we were stagnant. The competition in the division – it’s clear for everyone to see – other clubs upgraded, as did we, but just not enough. Too many points dropped at key times.
“I would say that we probably maintained where we were, but most people would view it as having regressed because we haven’t made the playoffs.”
In the same interview, Lenarduzzi says the important decisions are being talked about right now and that announcements are likely to be made early next week.
Rennie, 23-25-19 in two seasons and without a playoff win, could conceivably keep his job – but MLS managers with losing records and flagging post-season success are generally skating on perilously thin ice.