MLS: Revs and Metros start again

Clavijo and Zambrano win the coaching races

No two MLS teams have a worse track record in picking coaches than the Metros and the Revs. Not surprisingly, they have the worst all-time records in league play.

The Metros have used Eddie Firmani, Carlos Queiroz, Carlos Alberto Parreira, Alfonso Mondelo and Bora Milutinovic. Playoff appearances: two. Playoff wins: one (in a shootout). All-time record: 50-78.

New England began with Frank Stapleton, had a brief run at respectability with Thomas Rongen, then crashed last season under Walter Zenga. Record to date: 53-75. Playoff appearances: one. Playoff wins: zero.

These teams are intertwined by more than futility. In selecting their new coaches, they engaged in a tug-of-war over Fernando Clavijo, the former Metros assistant coach who stayed aboard as interim head coach while receiving permission to speak with Revolution director of soccer Sunil Gulati, then jumped ship once the Metros process dragged on too long.

If you're confused, you're not alone. But such are the ways of the Metros world as conducted by General Manager Charlie Stillitano.

Clavijo resigned Nov. 19, after serving as interim coach for about a month, and traveled to Boston. "I think I wait long enough," said Clavijo.

"I asked Charlie several times, 'Look, if you are going to choose somebody else, just tell me. I don't have a problem with that. I just need to know.' But nobody ever told me anything.'"

Two days later, the date of MLS Cup '99, rumors swirled that the Metros had chosen Octavio Zambrano, although both he and his agent Ron Waxman stated no offer had yet been made.

The following day, Nov. 22, Gulati met with Revs operator-investors Jonathan Kraft and Robert Kraft. Gulati and Clavijo then began negotiations.

On Nov. 29, the same day the Metros announced their selection of former Galaxy head coach Zambrano, the Revs made their selection of Clavijo public.

Stillitano said his decision came down to experience: Zambrano compiled 39-18 record with the Galaxy from June 1997 to April 1999. Clavijo's only head coaching experience has come indoors, with Seattle in the CISL (where he won a championship in 1997) and with Florida in the NPSL.

As a player, Clavijo won indoor championships in the MISL with New York and San Diego, and won CISL titles with San Diego. He played 61 times for the U.S., including three 1994 World Cup games.

"I really don't know what happened in New York," said Clavijo. "They told me I was one of their final candidates, and I had no reason not to believe them.

"But it was never clear to me who was going to make the decision. They asked me to stay 10 days as interim coach while they interviewed people, and I was there for more than 3 1/2 weeks. They made deadlines for their decision, and the deadlines pass.

"Finally, I wish them good luck, and tell them I can't wait any longer."

Zambrano had disputes with several players in Los Angeles, yet the Galaxy roared through the 1998 season by scoring a league-record 85 goals. It was eliminated by expansion Chicago in the playoffs, thus missing a chance to play in its home stadium in MLS Cup '98.

He believes his departure was assured in late 1998, after Philip F. Anschutz bought the Galaxy for $25 million. Team president Tim Leiweke instituted a lengthy review process while also interviewing other coaching candidates, among them the eventual replacement, Sigi Schmid.

"I had the feeling they had already made their decision, and were just waiting for the right time," said Zambrano, who got the ax shortly after Schmid returned from coaching the U.S. U-20 World Cup team in Nigeria. At the time, the Galaxy was 2-3.

Zambrano is still being paid on his Galaxy contract, which runs until the end of the year. His Metros contract, worth a reported $140,000 per season, takes effect Jan. 1, 2000.

Terms of Clavijo's contract were not disclosed, but his rewards will be more than monetary. "I am very, very happy to be in New England," he said. "And it will be interesting when we play the MetroStars, don't you think?"

by Soccer America senior editor Ridge Mahoney

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