A look at the three vacant MLS head coaching jobs (and the best candidates to fill them)

Photo by ISIPhotos.com


The 2013 MLS Draft is just five weeks a way, and the MLS Combine just a month away, but three teams currently sit without permanent head coaches in place as we draw closer to the new year.

The New York Red Bulls, Chivas USA and Montreal Impact have all parted ways with their 2012 head coaches in recent weeks, but none of the three appears close to announcing a permanent replacement.

There have been plenty of rumblings about potential candidates, but as of Wednesday morning, none of the three jobs have been formally filled. That should chance in the next few weeks as teams prepare for the MLS Draft and January transfer window.

Here is a closer look at the three jobs, including the coaches linked to those jobs, and the coaches we think should be hired for those jobs.


The Latest– As SBI first reported back in October, the power brokers at the Red Bulls were lining up Gary McAllister to take over for Hans Backe as head coach, but now sources tell SBI that there is currently some in-fighting going on about that potential selection. It is a struggle that has left the team dragging their feet on an appointment even as the team makes major trades.

Who should be hired– It would probably never happen, but there isn’t a more deserving candidate than former Red Bulls assistant coach and current U.S. Under-17 national team head coach Richie Williams. He has coaching experience, local ties and is beloved by the fan base. So why won’t it happen. He was fired by then Red Bulls general manager Erik Soler in an ugly power move that led to a messy divorce between the sides. Even though Soler has now been dumped alongside former head coach Hans Backe, it seems unlikely Red Bull would bring Williams back.

Who is likely to be hired– McCallister still feels like the most likely candidate, and as Gerard Houllier’s preferred pick, he remains a good bet. Former New England Revolution head coach Stevie Nicol has ties to technical director Andy Roxburgh, and has considerable experience in MLS, so he should be seen as a darkhorse pick.


The Latest– The Impact parted ways with head coach Jesse Marsch last month and handed an interim position to Mauro Biello, a coach some feel could wind up keeping the position. There have been reports of Montreal being interested in former Impact defender and current Napoli assistant Enzo Concina, though Impact owner Joey Saputo seemed to shoot down the Concina rumor with this Tweet:

I can’t help but laugh when so called experts talk about our next coach. All I can say is that you guys are way off! You know who you are.

Who should be hired– If we’re talking about from a pure MLS experience standpoint, current Impact assistant coach Denis Hamlett would be a good pick. He enjoyed two strong seasons as Chicago Fire head coach and has a year with the Impact under his belt.

Who is likely to be hired–  Concina seems to check all the boxes that Montreal are believed to want filled. He has Canadian roots, Italian roots and Serie A ties, and a good coaching pedigree. If it isn’t him, we shouldn’t rule out the possibility that Biello keeps the job heading into the 2013 season.


The Latest– Robin Fraser was a lame-duck well before the 2012 season ended, so when he was let go it came as no surprise. What was a bit of a surprise is that former Pachuca boss Efrain Flores was reportedly going to take over for Fraser. That move hasn’t happened. Owner Jorge Vergara stated that Johan Cruyff would help select the new Goats head coach, but now Cruyff has been fired from his advisor role with Chivas USA. Yep, you guessed it. There is no telling which direction the team goes in now.

Who should be hired– Given his success in year one with the Montreal Impact, and his ties to Chivas USA as a captain on the team when the squad was actually a good team, Jesse Marsch is the perfect candidate to step in. Unfortunately for him, Marsch doesn’t seem like the coach Vergara would turn to in order to help implement a more Mexican influence on the team.

Who is likely to be hired– It is anyone’s guess right now just what the volatile Vergara is thinking right now, but what we do know is that he has met with former U.S. national team coach Steve Sampson, a fluent Spanish speaker who told SBI last weekend that he definitely wants the job. It is a safe bet that Vergara will either hand the job to a Mexican coach, or give Sampson a chance to take charge.


What do you think of the coaching situations of these three clubs? Who would you like to see hired to take these positions? What do you think of our suggestions?

Share your thoughts below.

  • Brain Guy

    How much influence does/will Thierry Henry wield in the selection of the new coach at RBNY? Whoever gets hired has to have the chops to command the respect of guys like Henry and Cahill, and has to be willing to make some waves when necessary.


    • chris

      Henry’s a little b!tch. They wont win anything with his annoying entitled attitude on the team


      • chris

        at least they made it to a final. They cant even make it out of the first round with all their “star” power


      • Slugger

        Right, because Henry has never won anything before. Titi can seem like a prima dona, but some of that is cultural (he IS French, after all) and at least he’s earned it. I don’t doubt he wants to win MLS Cup one bit.


      • Chance

        Red Bulls problem the last two seasons has not been Henry, it’s been Backe and Soler. The Management of the team has been ATROCIOUS.


    • Sabella

      Couldn’t agree more. The next coach needs to be bigger than Henry; needs to be willing to put him in his place when necessary. The unfortunate reality is that means a guy from Europe……and McCallister is NOT the guy. We’re not going to get a Pep, so it will have to be someone unproven and recently retired…..but talented. Honestly, I’m short on names


      • Brain Guy

        Sounds like RBNY are in a double-bind — they need a “big (European?) name” to throw his weight around the clubhouse, but they also need someone who knows MLS and won’t need to acclimate himself. Too bad they haven;t hit upon guys like Bruce Arena or Bob Bradley. Wait, what?


  • bottlcaps

    I want to know what Chivas fans ever did to deserve the kind of soccer hell they are in now. Steve Sampson!!!! The guy was a terrible USMNT coach and when Hamilton FIRED Sigi Schmit when the Galaxy were the top team in the MLS, they brought in Sampson to see out the season. Naturally, with all the players that Sigi had brought in the Galaxy won the MLS Cup, with, of course, Sampson getting the credit. Naturally the WORST team in the MLS would have to be paired with the WORST coach in US history for the soccer gods to be appeased.


    • Hmmmm

      Sampson’s career sure is strange,

      He won an NCAA title, won an MLS Cup and USOC double, made the Copa America semis and qualified the US for the WC and is one of the few Americans to coach a foreign national team.

      And yet, despite all that on his resume, he is held in very light regard by the American soccer establishment and reviled and/or mocked by US fans. And often with good reason.

      Odd that someone who has done what Sampson has done has managed to put himself in a position where he is an afterthought and a punchline in coaching circles.


      • PD

        fans are cruel man. cruel-er than pre-teen girls in a verbal cat fight.

        you must be new here.


      • RK

        I don’t think he can ever recover from using a 3-6-1 in the eyes of soccer fans.


      • SonicDeathMonkey

        Running a 3-6-1 in a WC will do that to someones reputation. Just sayin’.


  • Hmmmm

    I have no idea if he would leave the secure world of college soccer, but I would think Sasho Cirovski of Maryland would be someone MLS teams would be interested in, especially given the success former college coaches have had in MLS.


  • Nate Dollars

    as a dcu fan, i hope richie williams doesn’t go back to nyrb. he’s too good for them.


  • Andy

    Richie Williams and Jessie Marsch are both good shouts. I don’t care about NYRB being good, but I’d like to see Agudelo’s team do a bit better.


  • PD

    Rafa Benitez will be out of a job soon if Guardiola or Mourinho actually make the jump to EPL … call me crazy, but I could see NYRB dropping coin for that kind of “acquisition” (the first DP coach?). It would be ridiculous of course, but they’ve done battier things…


  • chris

    Why is Montreal in this league? If i wanted to watch recycled italian players i would watch their 2006 world cup matches


    • ed - houston

      lol, i know what you mean i am critical of that too, but they won the cup though. seriously, they can hire all the old geezers they want it bodes well for eastern teams.


    • Laurent voyer

      That’s funny. I wonder if you will still laugh when they’ll win the cup. Because they will, sonner than you may think. The impact management team won at every lever they played, they know how to build a team. By the way, there are a couple of “aged italians” on this team, but they all can teach a few tricks. On my point of view, they are super-cool to watch, no kick and run like most of the MLS teams, real football, simply put. Go Impact!


  • Luis C

    On the Red Bulls they already started backwards they are getting new players before the coach
    so whoever is going to come in will blame it on the players they gave him .
    On another note seems that the first thing all this European people do is reinforce the notion to the fans that they do not need the Homegrown players they got rid already of Bryan Gallego who was
    US u-17 captain the last cicle,Juan Agudelo,Kassel,Hot,etc.And this new guy claim that he is going to pay attention to the draft,unfortunally I love soccer I am a NYRB season Ticket holder
    and still I am going to to the games but I know I do not see in the future my team wininning anything.


    • DCfan

      Luis…. at least by going to the RB games you do get to see some great teams coming into the city….. Not all is lost by going to RB games 🙂


    • WK

      From one American soccer fan to another, you have my sincerest apologies.

      I didn’t always understand some of the moves Yallop & John Doyle have made for the Quakes, but am grateful for their understanding of MLS and belief in the young American player. They’ve brought in unheralded or unproven players like Beitashour, Morrow, Salinas, Brad Ring, Sam Garza, Ike Opara (though the jury is still out on that one) and now Marcus Tracy and tried to develop them into solid professionals- mostly with success. Easy to be proud of team like that.


  • anon

    I’m shocked Preki’s name hasn’t been mentioned. Granted, he is a bit of a nut, but he did win coach of the year honors pretty recently, and was a solid coach before Toronto dumped him without really giving him a chance.

    Others I’d like to see considered:
    Curt Onalfo – been with LA Galaxy last few years, ready to jump back to the Captain’s seat?

    Gregg Berhalter – would love to see an MLS side make an offer for him.

    John Spencer – Didn’t get enough of a chance in Portland.

    Gary Smith – If you can lure back from England, he knows how to win in this league.

    Bob Bradley – Is it too soon to bring back the great bald one? 🙂

    Former USMNT stars:
    Kasey Keller, Brian McBride, Cobi Jones, Eric Wynalda, Tab Ramos, Claudio Reyna – Would love to see one of these guys make a jump to MLS. Olsen, Vermes, Klopas and Kinnear are all former Nats who have done very well as coaches.


    • beto

      how is Berhalter’s club doing in Sweden?

      Bob is still holding Egypt together.. MLS return in the next few years tho, hopefully.

      +1 on former players. Hope to see all of those guys moving into coaching side soon.


  • The Imperative Voice

    Chivas’ process sounds messy but if they hire either Efrain Flores or Sampson, based on their CVs, those are actually superior coaching selections. Sampson, though unpopular, has enough chops to win a double with LA and to qualify the US with one loss.

    NY might come out OK with Nicol but McAllister would be an inexperienced disaster who would also have to adjust to MLS’ little rules. I don’t think Williams has a chance of being rehired.

    Montreal, well, two mediocre players with little coaching experience doesn’t scream awesome pick. They had a long time assistant, distinguished player, and smart guy in Marsch. This sounds like TFC-worthy backsliding.


  • beto

    how is Steve Nicol still unemployed? I would at least give him a front office job if not a head coaching gig.


  • MeroMasta

    I wouldn’t mind Steve Nicol running RBNY. He did a good job in NE with very little resources.


    • Shake

      Or why don’t they drop enough dough to nab Kinnear from Houston?

      If playoffs are what is killing the team, who better to bring in except Bruce? (who they ditched)


  • galloway84

    Denis Hamlett doesn’t have a head coaching job for a reason. After 2 years failing to take the Fire to the MLS Championship with the best player in franchise history along with run-ins with certain players and his incompetent game plan, that is why he is an assistant and always will. Guys like Richie Williams and Jesse Marsch derserve a head coaching gig before Hamlett.


  • KarenB

    I liked Robin Fraser but from some of the things I’ve heard he got burned by a lot of micro managing from the front office. I used to like Samson, but what he did to the Galaxy was a crime and it took years to repair. He managed to turn one of the best “teams” in the MLS into a group of “individuals” and seems to do this to every team he gets involved with..

    Assuming the “Front Office” and MORE importantly “The HOME Office” would leave him alone and let him do his job, Jesse Marsch would be the ideal coach for Chivas. As a player he bled the Red & White and quite often was the glue that held the team together.

    I’ve been to almost EVERY home game since Chivas USA joined the league and without fail each time the home office has tried to make the team more “Mexican” its been a royal disaster. They seem to think that with the name “Chivas” every Mexican-American fan will flock to the games completely forgetting that with most Hispanics ANY team remotely related to “Chivas” is the bad guy. I’m not saying to ignore the Hispanic fan, they’ve helped build the MLS. BUT your growth is with the untapped Anglo fan who could care less about the “Mother Club”, but wants a team to cheer for….target them, on and off the pitch.


    • PanchoMiguelMoralesdeConejo

      Amen to that. Who wants to cheer for a Triple A club for a Mexican big-league team?
      Wrong strategy.
      If you want a ‘mexican’ style, fine, but not a Mexican brand….won’t work, maybe some of the poorer Central American leagues could stomach a Triple A affiliation, but not the U.S.

      Best thing Chivas could do is lose their affiliation with Chivas of G. But, the die has been cast and it’ll be another 5 years before Vergara decides he was wrong…again.


  • Abelardo Temoche

    MLS scouts South America for playing talent, why not coaches? I was looking at some of the coaches my team Alianza Lima has had, and this guy came to mind, Gustavo Costas.


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