2. HITCHCOCK'S CHOICE: MLS assistant, college product or national team vet

By Ridge Mahoney

As many MLS coaches descend on St. Louis for the Men's College Cup this weekend, there's another set of semifinalists in Dallas.

FC Dallas general manager Michael Hitchcock has gone "local" and trimmed his list of head coach candidates to four: SMU coach Schellas Hyndman, current assistant coach Steve Morrow, D.C. United assistant Tom Soehn, and former U.S. international Jeff Agoos, who was recently named technical director of the New York Red Bulls and was raised in nearby Richardson.

Hyndman's name has arisen each time Dallas has fired or not retained a head coach, but he's never won an NCAA title in the 23 seasons he's coached the Mustangs. The coaches who've won titles in MLS straight out of college -- Bruce Arena (D.C. United 1996, 1997) and Sigi Schmid (Los Angeles, 2002) -- collected multiple collegiate crowns before jumping to the pro game.

Bob Bradley (Chicago 1998) didn't win any titles at Princeton but spent two years as Arena's assistant in D.C. before moving on to the Fire, the MetroStars, and Chivas USA. Frank Yallop (San Jose 2001 and 2003) and Dominic Kinnear (Houston 2006) were MLS assistant coaches before they won league championships.

Thomas Rongen coached Tampa Bay and New England before winning with D.C. in 1999. Bob Gansler (Kansas City, 2000) and Steve Sampson (Los Angeles, 2005) coached national teams before winning their MLS titles. (Sampson coached Santa Clara to the 1989 NCAA title, which it shared with Arena's Virginia.) Only Peter Nowak (D.C. United, 2004) went straight into head coaching and won a title.

SMU lost on penalties to eventual champion Maryland in last year's semifinals and was knocked out by UC Santa Barbara, 3-1, at home in the second round this year. Would it make sense to fire a pro coach (Colin Clarke) who can't win the big one to hire a college coach with the same track record? Still, sources say the choice will be either Hyndman or Soehn.

Soehn played for Dallas in 1997 and 1998 and of the current MLS assistant coaching crop is generally deemed the most ready, if not beyond ready, to take a head coaching job. The smart money, if there is such a thing in Dallas, is on Soehn.

Morrow also played for Dallas (2002-03) following a playing career that included a decade with English Premier League club Arsenal. He passed on a position in Arsenal's development system to coach with Clarke in Dallas and has extensive knowledge of the current team as well as the league. Hitchcock must determine if he's an upgrade or more of the same, or perhaps if he should head the team's development programs rather than the first team.

Agoos has no pro coaching experience and just took the Red Bulls' job. Let's get real.

A few days after jettisoning Clarke, Hitchcock announced midfielder Ronnie O'Brien had been traded to Toronto FC for midfielder Adrian Serioux. Clark's disputes with O'Brien and other players had been cited by Hitchcock as one reason Clarke hadn't been retained, so at least there's one less problem -- a very talented if temperamental player -- for his replacement to deal with.

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