Join Now | 
HomeAboutContact UsPrivacy & SecurityAdvertise
Soccer America DailySoccer World DailySpecial EditionAround The NetSoccer Business InsiderCollege Soccer ReporterYouth Soccer ReporterSoccer on TVSoccer America ClassifiedsGame Report
Paul Gardner: SoccerTalkSoccer America ConfidentialYouth Soccer InsiderWorld Cup Watch
RSS FeedsArchivesManage SubscriptionsSubscribe
Order Current IssueSubscribeManage My SubscriptionRenew My SubscriptionGift Subscription
My AccountJoin Now
Tournament CalendarCamps & AcademiesSoccer GlossaryClassifieds
Pareja leads narrowly in MLS Coach of the Year race
by Ridge Mahoney, September 27th, 2013 1:50AM

MOST READ
TAGS:  colorado rapids, mls

MOST COMMENTED

By Ridge Mahoney

Voting for the major MLS postseason awards appears to be wide-open, and Coach of the Year is no exception.

Will it go to an incumbent with a proven track record (Sigi Schmid, Jason Kreis, Bruce Arena, Peter Vermes, Dominic Kinnear) who has overcome obstacles to record yet another strong season? Is a second-year man who has raised his game and that of his team (Oscar Pareja, Jay Heaps) the most deserving choice? Or has a newcomer in his first MLS season (Marco Schallibaum, Caleb Porter, Mike Petke) sufficiently impressed the voters?

Each category is a tough choice, never mind selecting the ultimate winner. Since the voting process concludes well before the playoffs -– in which mediocre regular seasons can be redeemed and excellent campaigns are sometimes scuttled – finish, the picks can take on a lame-duck feel, especially since one ill-advised coaching move can spoil the entire season.

Results, of course, are one of most important criteria but a cluster of teams bunched tightly together in the standings won’t indicate a clear choice. Any maybe that’s a good thing.

Last year, former Quakes’ coach Frank Yallop took the honor for steering San Jose (19-6-9, 66 points) to the Supporters’ Shield while scoring 72 goals, the third-highest total in league history. Yet Sporting Kansas City finished with just three fewer points (18-7-9) and posted the fourth-best goals allowed record all-time (0.79 goals per game). SKC’s point total was five points more than No. 3 D.C. United. And neither San Jose nor SKC reached MLS Cup, in which the Galaxy beat Houston for the second straight year.

So regardless of how the final few weeks shake out, there’s plenty to chew on regarding the other criteria. Assembling and developing a team, overcoming injuries and player departures, making midseason improvements, game strategy and man-management are all vital elements. Nicking talent off other MLS rosters and utilizing it effectively is a common thread of the most successful teams, and there have been many cases of such moves this season.

Of the incumbents, probably the nod goes to Kreis and Vermes. Their teams are vying for the conference title as well as the Supporters’ Shield and in the case of RSL, its head coach has masterfully engineered a major makeover. Jamison Olave, Fabian Espindola and Will Johnson departed in salary-driven moves, and Kreis has filled the void with a wave of young players while retaining the team’s identity of tough defense and skillful possession.

Vermes’ roster has been relatively stable, yet he’s managed shrewdly the international commitments of Matt Besler and Graham Zusi and also compensated for Kei Kamara’s going on loan at the start of the season, returning briefly, and then heading back to England on a permanent transfer. He’s wisely used defender Ike Opara, acquired in a trade last year with San Jose, and used a loan arrangement to groom C.J. Sapong, who could be a valuable cog down the stretch.

Seattle’s season may hinge on Schmid’s management of Obafemi Martins, who sat glowering on the bench after being substituted last weekend, and Clint Dempsey’s ouchy hamstring. The Galaxy has overcome the loss of Mike Magee and the international commitments of Landon Donovan and Robbie Keane through Arena’s handling of Gyasi Zardes, Jack McBean, Jose Villarreal and other young players. Arena also moved decisively to replace keeper Carlo Cudicini with Jaime Penedo.

The second-year contingent is led by Pareja. A wave of injuries early in the season forced him to field lineups short on veterans, and as those veterans have healed, they’ve found Chris Klute, Shane O’Neill, Dillon Powers, Deshorn Brown and goalie Clint Irwin hard to dislodge from the game-day roster.

Midseason acquisitions Vicente Sanchez and Gabriel Torres have further strengthened a pretty good team. Ecuadorian defender Diego Calderon was projected in preseason as a starter; a long-term knee injury and the death of childhood friend Christian Benitez have limited him to four games, and yet O’Neill’s emergence has softened Calderon’s absence.

Heaps has done an amazing job incorporating very young players into his philosophies. Diego Fagundez, 18, leads the team with 11 goals and is the youngest of a group that counts Juan Agudelo (20) and Kelyn Rowe and Andrew Farrell (both 21) among its key members. His work may bear its ripest fruit in 2014 and beyond.

Both Montreal and Portland have slipped from the top spots of the Eastern and Western Conferences, respectively, and so votes may slip away from, respectively, Schallibaum and Porter. Yet both have done commendable work.

Schallibaum’s sporadic run-ins with referees draw attention away from squeezing 18 goals out of 36-year-old Marco Di Vaio and managing the personalities of a half-dozen European veterans while also enhancing the contributions of Justin Mapp. Porter’s acquisition of playmaker Diego Valeri and melding his talents with those of Will Johnson, Darlington Nagbe, Rodney Wallace, Ryan Johnson and Diego Chara is a classic example of re-building a promising team that had gone sour under predecessor John Spencer.

The Red Bulls have apparently hit the jackpot with Petke, a rugged defender in his playing days and one of the few throwbacks to the team’s MetroStars existence that fans remember fondly. His swift benching of Thierry Henry is just the most publicized of many crucial decisions that have steered New York to its status among the league’s elite.

With a month to go, here’s how the contenders stack up:

1. Pareja.
2. Petke.
3. Porter.
4. Kreis.
5. Vermes.


3 comments
  1. Betty Lisec
    commented on: September 27, 2013 at 10:17 a.m.
    Give it to Mikey!!! I think Petke has been outstanding!

  1. StrikerBob Norman
    commented on: September 27, 2013 at 11:53 a.m.
    Ok, I'm a homer and Sounder till I die, but if Seattle takes the Shield, then Sigi deserves it. Between injuries and call ups, The Sounders have fielded something like 32 different lineups in 33 matches. Sigi has developed, motivated and utilized our depth masterfully. It is no accident that with Oba and Dempsey and Johnson and Ianni and Zakuani and Alonzo and Evans and Joseph and Gspurning missing several matches, we have competed with courage and lead the league. It is just like Mahoney to miss the obvious, placing Sigi off his list while making a nonsensical statement that his chances hinge on the performance of players we have succeeded without. Another red card to Mahoney!

  1. Andrea Hana
    commented on: September 27, 2013 at 3:18 p.m.
    Robert Norman, I'm a Sounders fan also. So...WE are biased. Nevertheless, I agree with your statement.


Sign in to leave a comment. Don't have an account? Join Now




AUTHORS

ARCHIVES
FOLLOW SOCCERAMERICA

Recent Soccer America Confidential
World Cup of fraud and confederation of lies    
There is only one word to describe the 164-page indictment filed by Federal prosecutors against 14 ...
Quakes rookie Alashe hones skills against MLS's best    
The busy life of Quakes rookie midfielder Fatai Alashe includes a trip to France this month ...
Wondo's mark of 100 goals impresses everyone but him    
San Jose forward Chris Wondolowski joined eight players in the exclusive club of 100-goal scorers by ...
MLS in Yankee Stadium completes New York City soccer tapestry    
Three days. Not much time to soak in a city's soccer culture. But this is New ...
Women's World Cup all primed to be prime-time hit    
You heard it here first: With a little luck, Fox will break the record for the ...
Orlando City staff sends right messages but lacks wiggle room    
Expansion team Orlando City SC finally won a game at home, and did so impressively by ...
College or pro? Soccer in America increasingly faces a choice of how to develop players    
The rusting, gray Commodore Barry Bridge overlooked PPL Park, wind whirled on the pitch, and patches ...
Keith Tozer: 'USA is ready for pro futsal'    
The Professional Futsal League (PFL) is slated to launch in November 2016. Keith Tozer, who has ...
USA grooms new goddess of the air    
As sports teams go, the U.S. women's national team is tough to break into. But once ...
New York derby exceeds Marsch's expectations    
If you ever questioned MLS's wisdom of putting two teams in New York, that was answered ...
>> Soccer America Confidential Archives