BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. (May 25, 2010) — The Chicago Red Stars of Women's Professional Soccer announced Monday that they have relieved Emma Hayes of her duties as head coach and director of soccer operations. According to a club press release, "The search for a new head coach begins immediately."
At press time there is no indication from the Red Stars as to their time table for finding a new coach or who might serve as interim coach.
There has been a growing sentiment among fans that Hayes may have been the primary factor behind the talent-laden team's underachievement. This began to come up last season when the Red Stars were eliminated from playoff contention.
As the Red Stars have continued to be plagued by similar problems this season, despite a major change of personnel, it appeared that Hayes was the club's weakest link.
The reality of this became especially evident in her comments to the press following a heartbreaking loss to the expansion Philadelphia Independence on May 15th. Hayes seemed at a loss as to why her defense continued to have momentary but fatal lapses, why her forwards couldn't finish, or why her club couldn't stay confident and composed after falling behind.
The Red Stars finished sixth out of seven teams with a 5-10-5 record in their inaugural season in 2009 and are 1-4-1, in seventh place (of eight clubs, post expansion), after six games in 2010.
While no one takes any delight in someone's personal failure or firing, the Red Stars are a soccer club and their only objective is to win championships. When it becomes clear that their leader is unable to find a winning formula, the only realistic option is to make a change.
Sources close to the franchise have indicated that Hayes may have not lasted as long as she did were it not for her close relationship with general manager Marcia McDermott.
McDermott's face told the story in the tunnel of Toyota Park following the Philadelphia loss. Something in my gut told me then that this decision might be coming.
You could read between the lines of her statement yesterday and discern her anguish at having to pull the trigger.
"I want to thank Emma for her hard work and assistance with the launch of the Red Stars franchise," McDermott said. "This was a difficult decision to make because she poured her heart into the organization. We felt it was time for a change as we move forward and look to put together a successful run this season."
Hayes was named the first head coach and director of soccer operations for the Red Stars on May 15, 2008. She came with a resume of achievement as assistant coach of Arsenal Ladies in her native England, preceded by Mid Atlantic Athletic Conference Coach of the Year honors at Iona College, and was the youngest to win Coach of the Year in the W League, where she was head coach of the Long Island Lady Riders.
At the outset it appeared Hayes would duplicate her previous achievements in WPS. The Red Stars opened league play in 2009 with a 2-0-2 record and for one week enjoyed the top position in Bleacher Report's Power Rankings. It was all downhill from there however, until Hayes finished with a combined 6-10-6 record. Subtracting that initial four-game stretch, her record was 4-10-4.
Hayes is only the second head coach to be fired in WPS. Ian Sawyers, another England native, was relieved of his duties as Sky Blue FC coach in the middle of last season. Sky Blue FC went on to win the title.
The Red Stars host Bay Area's FC Gold Pride at 7 p.m. Saturday, May 29, at Toyota Park. Before the match, Italian powerhouse A.C. Milan is training from 5 to 6 p.m. A.C. Milan's training session is open to fans who purchase a ticket to the Red Stars vs. FC Gold Pride match and for all Chicago Fire season ticket holders. (The Fire play A.C. Milan in an international friendly at 7:30 p.m. Sunday, May 30).
Photo: David Durochik