MLS: Chris Armas' hiring raises eyebrows but is not surprising

Chris Armas has been hired by the Colorado Rapids, getting a third shot as an MLS head coach

The former U.S. international (66 caps) has coached the New York Red Bulls and Toronto FC and worked as an assistant at the Chicago Fire in his first coaching job and more recently at Manchester United and Leeds United.

Armas' hiring raised a lot of eyebrows, though.

He had success with the Red Bulls in 2018, taking over in mid-season for Jesse Marsch andleading them to their third Supporters' Shield.

But in 2019, the  Long Island native's only full season as a head coach, the Red Bulls finished sixth in the Eastern Conference, tied for their lowest finish in a decade, and he was fired after nine games in the 2020 season.

Armas was back on the sidelines in 2021, but he fired after six months as the Toronto FC head coach following a humiliating 7-1 loss at D.C. United, departing with a 1-8-2 record.

Armas, whose stint in Toronto FC is not even mentioned in the Rapids' release on his hiring, is not the only former MLS coach to get a second or third chance (or more).

Despite being fired by Inter Miami on June 1 with the Herons in last place in the Eastern Conference with a 5-10-0 record, Phil Neville was recently hired by the Portland Timbers as head coach.

Of the 29 head coaches at the start of the 2023 season, 12 had head coaching experience in MLS and 11 were former MLS assistants.

Of the 12 former head coaches, five had winning records in their previous stints as MLS head coaches, and seven had losing records.

Only three coaches had not previously worked in the United States in a coaching or technical capacity when they were hired: Wayne Rooney, Gerhard Struber and Neville.

There are plenty of more opportunities for former MLS coaches. Seven teams currently have head coaching vacancies:
Charlotte FC, Chicago, D.C. United, Minnesota United, CF Montreal, New England and the Red Bulls.

2023 MLS head coaches (opening day)
Club, Coaching (previous MLS coaching experience)

1. FC Cincinnati
, Pat Noonan (MLS assistant).
2. Orlando City, Oscar Pareja (MLS head coach)
3. Columbus (1st season), Wilfried Nancy (MLS head coach)
4. St. Louis City (1st season), Bradley Carnell (MLS assistant).
5. Philadelphia, Jim Curtin MLS assistant).
6. New England, *Bruce Arena (MLS head coach)
7. Seattle, Brian Schmetzer (MLS assistant).
8. LAFC, Steve Cherundolo (none -- coached LAFC second team in USL)
9. Houston (1st season), Ben Olsen (MLS head coach)
10. Atlanta United, Gonzalo Pineda (MLS assistant).
11. Real Salt Lake, Pablo Mastroeni (MLS head coach)
12. Nashville, Gary Smith (MLS head coach)
13. Vancouver, Vanni Sartini (MLS assistant).
14. FC Dallas, Nico Estevez (MLS assistant).
15. Sporting KC, Peter Vermes (none -- served as Sporting KC technical director)
16. San Jose (1st season), Luchi Gonzalez (MLS head coach)
17. NY Red Bulls *Gerhard Struber (no previous U.S. coaching experience)
18. Portland, *Giovanni Savarese (none -- coached in NASL)
19. Charlotte FC, *Christian Lattanzio (MLS assistant).
20. CF Montréal, *Hernán Losada (MLS head coach)
21. Minnesota United, *Adrian Heath (MLS head coach)
22. NYCFC, Nick Cushing (MLS assistant)
23. D.C. United, *Wayne Rooney (no previous U.S. coaching experience)
24. Chicago, *Ezra Hendrickson (MLS assistant)
25. Austin FC, Josh Wolff (MLS assistant)
26. LA Galaxy, Greg Vanney (MLS head coach)
27. Inter Miami, *Phil Neville (no previous U.S. coaching experience)
28. Colorado, *Robin Fraser (MLS head coach)
29. Toronto FC, *Bob Bradley (MLS head coach)
*No longer head coach.

5 comments about "MLS: Chris Armas' hiring raises eyebrows but is not surprising".
  1. Wallace Wade, November 18, 2023 at 10:24 a.m.

    That hire should really excite the supporters!

  2. John DiFiore, November 18, 2023 at 8:54 p.m.

    Why isn't Balboa being hired?

  3. Donald Lee replied, November 19, 2023 at 8:34 p.m.

    Isn't he a media personality? (I know what a player he was.)   But has he not focused his career on TV commentary?  

  4. Grant Goodwin, November 19, 2023 at 10:03 p.m.

    What about John Harkes?  I think he has done nothing but build teams and win...Cincinnati and Greenville 

  5. humble 1, November 20, 2023 at 1:13 p.m.

    Why?  Because MLS is a closed shop.  Once the door closes - getting it opened again - very - not easy.  Not a lot of creativity spawned or urgency in the closed world of USA closed franchise sports. Look at NBA, MLB, NFL, NHL, teams languish, coaches rotate, owners feel no sense of urgency.  I am not screaming for pro/rel, I am thankful for MLS, we would not have pro soccer without it, just being realistic about the implementation of the game here.  This hire is symptomatic of what MLS is.  It is all very predictable and opaque at the same time.  

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