Ranking Every MLS Head Coach

Peter Galindo@@GalindoPWFeatured ColumnistSeptember 16, 2014

Ranking Every MLS Head Coach

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    Head coaches are crucial in sports, but in soccer, they are very hands-on in both training sessions and games. In MLS, a club won't go very far if they do not have a manager who knows the ins and outs of the league. 

    This slideshow will feature synopsis of every MLS head coach, and their ranking.  Experience, wins, tactical knowledge, man management and accumulated trophies will be discussed.   

    The best coaches possess all of these attributes, while the ones who are ranked lower either lack experience or have not achieved any notable success in MLS.


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    19. Greg Vanney

    Greg Vanney was recently appointed as Toronto FC's head coach. In Vanney's first three games, TFC has lost twice and drawn once. It's still too early to rank the 40-year-old, so for now, he's at the bottom of the list.

    18. Frank Klopas

    Klopas guided the Chicago Fire into the playoffs in 2012, but lost in the Wild Card game to the Houston Dynamo. He led the Montreal Impact to a Canadian Championship this year, but the Impact are easily the worst team in the league, both on the pitch and in the table.

    17. Pablo Mastroeni

    The Pablo Mastroeni era in Colorado began with a lot of optimism. However, the Rapids have been one of the worst teams in MLS recently, as they've won just once in their last 12 games.

    The squad is young, but it's clear that Mastroeni is still raw as a coach and will eventually settle.

    16. Wilmer Cabrera

    This is Wilmer Cabrera's first season as head coach for Chivas USA, and is still unproven in the role. However, that doesn't completely excuse the lowly six wins that the Goats have amassed so far this season.

    Chivas is ninth in the Western Conference, and 18th in the overall table. Even with Erick Torres' 14 goals, the L.A. club still cannot produce any quality on the pitch.

15. Mark Watson

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    Mark Watson has done relatively well with the San Jose Earthquakes since replacing Frank Yallop. He nearly guided the Quakes into the playoffs last year as they finished sixth in the West.

    Injuries have hurt the Earthquakes this year, and they're slowly slipping down the standings. Also, in the year and a half Watson has been in charge, San Jose hasn't been the most entertaining side to watch.

14. Frank Yallop

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    Frank Yallop won two MLS Cups and notched over 117 wins with San Jose, per the CBC. He was given complete control of operations on top of the coaching job in Chicago this year.

    It hasn't gone well for Yallop. The Fire have won just five games, and have tied 15 times. It's a trademark under Yallop, who has now drawn 99 games when counting the 84 he accumulated in San Jose.

    Yallop favours route-one tactics. A strong, organized defense takes precedence, and when the opportunity presents itself, the team starts a counter-attack in order to score goals.

    The two MLS Cup victories are a great accomplishment, as are 117 wins, but apart from a somewhat lucky Supporters' Shield win in 2012, Yallop's success has declined.

13. Gregg Berhalter

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    The Columbus Crew are in the thick of the playoff race as the latter portion of the regular season concludes. Head coach Gregg Berhalter is the main reason for the Crew's fifth place in the East.

    Columbus has the third-best average possession at 54.5 percent, per WhoScored.com. They also have the best passing accuracy, concede a low amount of shots and are one of the most disciplined teams in MLS.

    Berhalter debuted as a head coach this season and the Crew is teetering on the red line, so they're not out of the woods yet. 

12. Jim Curtin

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    Jim Curtin has only been in charge of the Philadelphia Union since June. Despite the mid-season hire, Curtin has six wins in 12 games, losing just twice.

    He's made some bold decisions as head coach, like swapping Amobi Okugo and Maurice Edu. It's worked out for the most part as the Union is level with fifth-place Columbus, but are below the red line at the moment. Curtin has also guided Philadelphia to the U.S. Open Cup final.

    Curtin has only been the Union's coach for a few months, but given how he's tactically adjusted the squad and how much stronger they look on the field, it's a mystery why the 34-year-old hasn't been permanently hired.

11. Mike Petke

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    Mike Petke led the New York Red Bulls to a Supporters' Shield last year. Fast forward to 2014, and the Red Bulls are fourth, but just one point above sixth place.

    The Red Bulls' issue has been individual mistakes, and as a result, Petke called out his team a couple of weeks ago.   

    However, these basic errors have been persistent all year, and one can wonder why Petke and his coaching staff haven't addressed these mistakes. 

    Man management is crucial in MLS play, and it's up to Petke to address miscues during training sessions and ensure that his players improve.  

    Despite his inexperience, Petke has a lot of potential as a head coach as demonstrated by his debut in 2013. Focus on the details, and he'll be a great manager.

10. Carl Robinson

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    Robinson's first season as the Vancouver Whitecaps' head coach was encouraging. The Whitecaps were 6-3-7 as of July 6. They've won just twice since that date.

    The Welshman has utilized his young players. Erik Hurtado, Darren Mattocks, Kekuta Manneh and Gershon Koffie have all played pivotal roles with the team. 

    It's led to some electrifying performances from Vancouver, but it's also been one of their major downfalls. Robinson's stubbornness in playing some youngsters over veterans has cost the Whitecaps in some big matches.

    Mattocks and Hurtado have been wasteful despite excellent service from the likes of Pedro Morales and Mauro Rosales. Robinson will eventually learn as he only became a head coach earlier this year. For now, he might have to realize the error of his ways by missing the playoffs.

9. Caleb Porter

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    Porter's debut campaign in 2013 was a tremendous start to his MLS career. The Portland Timbers were the No. 1 seed in the West and narrowly lost out in the Supporters' Shield race to the New York Red Bulls.

    The Timbers defense was stingy, they also had a clinical, free-flowing attack. However, 2014 has been a stark contrast to that terrific 2013 season. Portland has conceded 48 goals, and only Chivas USA has allowed more in the West.

    The defense has been inconsistent, and it could be due to the full-backs pushing high up the pitch and failing to maintain their responsibilities at the back. 

    That's up to Porter to fix. A deep playoff run in 2013 means that his job is safe for a while, but expectations are high in Portland.

    If the Timbers fail to make the playoffs, the former Akron University coach will have to prove he belongs in the upper echelon of MLS coaches with a strong third season.

8. Jay Heaps

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    The New England Revolution are a dark horse for the playoffs now that they've added Jermaine Jones. However, head coach Jay Heaps kept his team afloat prior to that signing.

    Since Heaps replaced Steve Nicol in 2011, the 38-year-old has led the Revolution to the playoffs, and looks destined to do that again this season. 

    The Revs are third in the East and have a five-point cushion over sixth place. They're also just five points away from the Eastern Conference leaders D.C. United.

    Heaps has made the Revolution one of the most entertaining teams to watch in MLS. He's one of the top young coaches in the league and is set to take a massive step in the playoffs.

7. Ben Olsen

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    D.C. United had completely contrasting seasons in 2012 and 2013. Two years ago, DC was second place in the East and made it to the Eastern Conference finals. Twelve months later, they were the worst team in MLS.

    Now they're top of the East, and that might not change due to Sporting Kansas City's declining form. The defense has been immense, conceding just 31 goals, and only the L.A. Galaxy have allowed fewer with 30.

    D.C. players Bobby Boswell, Sean Franklin and Bill Hamid were both named to the MLS All-Star team this year, and turned in a terrific performance against Bayern Munich.

    That's all down to Olsen, who recovered from an abysmal campaign, learned from his mistakes and built a stronger squad for this season. Credit also goes to the board for sticking with their coach. Maybe the 37-year-old will pay them back with a record fifth MLS Cup.

6. Oscar Pareja

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    Oscar Pareja is one of the most underrated coaches in MLS. The Colombian was an assistant with FC Dallas until 2011, when he was named head coach of the Colorado Rapids.

    Those years with Dallas seemed to help him a lot as he guided the Rapids to the playoffs in 2013, despite having a very young, inexperienced squad. 

    Pareja moved from Colorado and returned to Dallas, where he's come full circle. The Hoops are fourth place in the West, and are near guaranteed to make the playoffs.

    It helped when young players like Fabian Castillo, Tesho Akindele and Victor Ulloa have contributed, along with Blas Perez and many others. Pareja has gotten the most out of every player, which is why he was hired.

5. Jeff Cassar

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    When Jason Kreis departed Real Salt Lake for New York City FC, the replacement was going to have some big shoes to fill. Jeff Cassar took over and so far, RSL has been the same consistent team.

    RSL has slipped under the radar this year, but that's the case every season. Cassar has proven that he's a top-level coach in his first season at the helm. The squad is still very organized, and he's had to deal with key injuries to Alvaro Saborio and many more.

    Salt Lake is third place, but only by one point over Dallas with six games left. Regardless, finishing in the top four is a massive accomplishment for this team given their small budget and the major coaching change.

    It shouldn't come as much of a surprise. Cassar was an assistant coach for six years before his promotion. Nonetheless, he's done a fantastic job and deserves a lot of credit for taking RSL this far.

4. Peter Vermes

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    Sporting Kansas City has become one of the top MLS markets since they rebranded in 2011. Head coach Peter Vermes has tagged along for the ride since he was given the reins in 2009. 

    Like Sporting KC, Vermes has grown immensely. He can be regarded as one of the league's top coaches. The former defender led SKC to their first MLS Cup since 2000, and has guided SKC to the playoffs in the last four seasons. 

    Recently, Kansas City has struggled. They're second in the East, but it's only a two-point gap between them and D.C. United at the moment. They're still one of the most clinical teams in MLS and have conceded 34 goals despite the recent defensive issues

    However, if there's one man who can steer SKC out of this mess, it's Vermes.

3. Dominic Kinnear

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    Dominic Kinnear's style has been criticized in the past as being too boring. It seemingly worked out for Kinnear and his team, as the Houston Dynamo have won two MLS Cups, and have been finalists on two other occasions.

    Last year, Kinnear and the Dynamo narrowly lost to Sporting Kansas City in the Eastern Conference finals. This season has been a disappointment, but even if Houston misses the playoffs, it will be just the second time they've been knocked out of playoff contention since their relocation. 

    Kinnear is third on the all-time wins list by a head coach and is the longest-tenured manager in MLS. That's why Houston is so consistent every year.

    The Dynamo may not be as exciting to watch as Seattle or Kansas City, but they're an organized team that know what it takes to win in the playoffs. Kinnear is one of the few MLS coaches that preaches tactical discipline. The result speaks for itself.

2. Sigi Schmid

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    Sigi Schmid nearly lost his job last season, but ended up staying after Seattle Sounders owner Joe Roth gave him a vote of confidence.

    In hindsight, it would've been foolish to fire Schmid. The Sounders tactician has 200 wins, the most all-time by a head coach, and he has captured two MLS Cups with two different clubs.

    Schmid has been the only coach in the Sounders' MLS history and has led Seattle to the playoffs every year. This season will be no different as the Rave Green have already clinched a postseason spot.

    The Sounders have 54 points and lead the Supporters' Shield race. All that's left for Schmid is to deliver that elusive MLS Cup to Seattle. He's won three U.S. Open Cups and has a chance to earn a fourth.

    No doubt about it, Schmid is one of the all-time greats. Another MLS Cup will underline that status.

1. Bruce Arena

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    Bruce Arena is easily the best coach in MLS. He's won four MLS Cups, and only Sigi Schmid has more wins than Arena, who signed a multi-year contract extension before the 2014 season.

    Despite criticism while he was coaching the U.S. men's national team, Arena has been credited with rebuilding the L.A. Galaxy into a legitimate contender again. 

    Former U.S. players praised his motivational skills as a coach, which is an integral part of the position. Tactically, Arena has always been able to get the best out of his players. His recent alteration to his 4-4-2 has led to Gyasi Zardes' breakout season.

    Arena could win a fifth MLS Cup this season given how well the Galaxy have played since the World Cup break.

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