A gain for Red Bull New York is a loss for Chicago, and a reprieve for Chivas USA. Juan Carlos Osorio, passed over twice in previous coaching searches by the dysfunctional MLS franchise previously known as the MetroStars, is bolting from the Fire five months after leaving his native Colombia to coach in MLS. Osorio's move to Red Bull, where he replaces Bruce Arena, leaves Preki -- who had pursued the Red Bull job -- still in charge of Chivas USA, and Chicago in a major lurch.
Sparked by the hiring of Osorio and the signing of Cuauhtemoc Blanco in midseason, Chicago rose out of the bottom tier, qualified for the playoffs, and knocked off D.C. United in the conference semifinals before falling to New England, 1-0, one step short of MLS Cup.
A press released issued by the Fire yesterday said the team would receive a slew of compensatory benefits by releasing Osorio from his Fire contract, which had two years to run: draft picks, allocation money and/or salary cap relief, and cash.
A source said the final details of compensation were still being worked out but the teams had agreed in principle to the move, which comes about three weeks after the Fire had initially denied Red Bull permission to approach Osorio.
Another source said Osorio might earn double his Chicago salary -- believed to be in the low $200,000-range -- by taking the Red Bull job.
The signings of Blanco, striker Paulo Wanchope, and defender/midfielder Wilman Conde, and the purchase of the team from Anschutz Entertainment Group by Andell Holdings helped Osorio revive the Fire's season.
"He has an interest in all the guys and he certainly cares about winning," said former Fire midfielder Chris Armas, who announced his retirement after MLS Cup. "In the professional aspect of it, he does point out things and strives for that perfection. He himself is a hard worker and he expects every guy and every part of the team to come with the same attitude and work ethic.
"He seems to be a perfectionist, relentless in everything he does. He's takes pride in the practices, takes an interest in all the guys on the roster, and at the same time, he has a high standard. If things aren't where he wants them, he lets you know."
The bad news for Chicago is good news for Chivas USA.
After working one season as Bob Bradley's assistant, Preki took over when Bradley went to the U.S. national team. Preki earned Coach of the Year honors by winning the Western Conference regular-season title with a 15-7-8 record.
"It would be a huge setback if he left," said midfielder Sacha Kljestan last week amid reports Preki and Red Bull management had met. "He didn't change a lot of things but I think he learned a lot from Bob, and starting on the first day he was very clear about how he wanted us to play and what he expected from each of us. He did a great job taking what Bob had done and building on it. A lot of our success is because of him."
At the end of the season, perhaps only a head coaching change in Los Angeles could have been foreseen.
Rather than a rather tranquil offseason, a coaching carousel swept up the Galaxy, Fire, Red Bulls, Chivas USA, and expansion Quakes.
The Galaxy accepted a draft pick from the Quakes as compensation for Frank Yallop, who would have been fired sooner or later, and hired former Dutch international Ruud Gullit to replace him.
One of Osorio's first duties will be to address the Claudio Reyna situation. He missed about a third of the season with injuries and earned a shade over $1 million (base salary) as a Designated Player.
Osorio worked as a fitness coach at Manchester City during the ex-USA midfielder's stint with that club and Reyna has always spoken highly of him.
For the Fire, it's back to square one, just five months after landing Osorio to replace Dave Sarachan and just five weeks prior to the 2008 SuperDraft.
Might this be the time to take a long look at long-serving assistant coach Denis Hamlett?