Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Dave Sarachan, Toribio Rojas, and John Ellinger

Okay, time for a comparison. Midway through the season, an underperforming soccer team has fired their head coach. This has happened three times this year. It’s probably instructive to see what happened in each case.

The Chicago Fire

With today’s firing of Dave Sarachan, the Fire are looking to turn things around. Dave had been a successful MLS level coach, but lately seems to have lost his touch with the team. Instead of hiring a new coach right away, the Fire have opted to make Denis Hamlett (an assistant coach with the Fire since ‘98) their interim coach. This move should let them look around for an established coach, while letting Hamlett potentially win the job for himself.

While interim coaches aren’t always a good thing, the Fire have given themselves some room to work, and have put a coach in place (for now) who knows the team. We’ll see how things work out over the next month or so.

The Puerto Rico Islanders

On May 22nd, Colin Clark was hired by the Puerto Rico Islanders to replace Toribio Rojas. Colin Clarke is an experienced coach, who managed teams in the USL A-League, had a stint as an assistant coach for the MLS Dallas Burn, and went on to coach them to a Western Conference Championship. Prior to his hiring, the Islanders were 0-3-3, since his hiring, they’ve gone 2-0-2.

Real Salt Lake

Back on May 3rd, RSL fired John Ellinger and replaced him with former player Jason Kreis. Ellinger’s tenure as coach was widely viewed as a failure; he failed to develop players, produced a losing record, and was seen as managing games ineffectively. His replacement, Kreis, retired as a player the night before the move was announced, has had no coaching experience at any level, and has been the public face of numerous front office mistakes. Prior to the change, RSL was 0-2-2 (with one non-MLS win). Since the change, they are 0-3-4 (with one non-MLS win and one non-MLS loss).

Summing it up

Three coaching changes, and (not surprisingly) three different approaches. While it’s too early to tell about Chicago, it certainly seems that Puerto Rico did it right. Jason Kries was (and is) saddled with a lot of problems that aren’t his fault, but it’s hard to believe that RSL wouldn’t have done better making him an assistant coach and hiring (or at least looking for) an experienced coach for him to work under.

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