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Mariner’s departure thins field of head coaching candidates

Paul Mariner (

Major League Soccer lost one of its most respected assistant coaches to Europe this past weekend with Paul Mariner's departure from the New England Revolution to join English side Plymouth. As tough as that departure is on the Revs, it is also a big blow for MLS, which is facing an off-season where several head coaching jobs are expected to open up.

Mariner had long been regarded as a favorite to eventually land a head coaching job in MLS, and he almost certainly would have landed a head coaching job win in MLS this winter, but now with him gone MLS teams will have to work that much harder to find quality candidates.

So who are the top head coaching candidates heading into this summer? Here are some names to consider:

Richie Williams– Current interim head coach with the Red Bulls, Williams combines an impressive playing resume in MLS with a reputation as a quality assistant coach who has gained head coaching experience through two successful stints as Red Bulls interim head coach. He has earned a shot at being the Red Bulls head coach, but if the Red Bulls drop the ball and don't hire him, Williams will have plenty of job opportunities to choose from.

John Spencer– The Houston assistant combines MLS knowledge with a European pedigree and could be set for a move after nearly being hired by Chicago a year ago. He had long been considered a candidate to coach Colorado, where he played, but that seems like an unlikely destination, particularly if current head coach Gary Smith leads the Rapids into the playoffs.

Robin Fraser– While RSL struggle to return to the playoffs, Fraser is still one of the most respected assistants in the league and would also head many lists for openings. The question is whether RSL will make a chance at the top and replace Jason Kreis with Fraser. That scenario shouldn't be ruled out if RSL fails to qualify for the playoffs.

Preki– Chivas USA is in first place in the West, which makes it seem odd to have Preki on this list, but Chivas USA has long been rumored not to be overly happy with Preki and this could be the winter they part ways. Chicago and KC would jump at the chance to hire him.

Denis Hamlett- You can all but write off Hamlett's chances of returning to the Fire in 2010. Why? If the team struggles in the playoffs, or somehow fails to make the playoffs, Hamlett won't be brought back, but if Hamlett does lead the team to an MLS Cup final, or even an MLS Cup title, Hamlett is likely to walk away and move to one of the several teams likely to come calling then. Hamlett is out of contract after this season and the fact that Chicago failed to re-sign him to a new deal essentially confirms the long-held believe that Fire owner Andrew Hauptman isn't a fan, which is unfortunate considering the job Hamlett has done this year to deal with a key injuries all season long.

Martin Vasquez– Juergen Klinsmann's assistant at Bayern Munich has experience coaching in MLS (having been a Chivas USA and LA Galaxy assistant) and now he returns from a stint with one of Europe's top teams. The Mexican-born, USA-raised former U.S. national team player is a well-rounded prospect who is one of the favorites on this list to land a head coaching job this winter (and if Preki and Chivas USA part company, Vasquez would be a lock to take the Chivas USA job).

Dave Sarachan– LA assistant coach and former Chicago Fire head coach put up an impressive list of accomplishments during his time in charge of the Fire, and while he has to be enjoying the successful run as Bruce Arena's assistant with the Galaxy, you would imagine that Sarachan is eager to be a head coach again. 

Sasho Cirovski– One of the most respected and successful head coaches in college soccer, Cirovski has done all there is to do in the college game and could be ready for the challenge of the pros. Considering how well this year's crop of rookies from the University of Maryland have been, it is tough to argue that he knows how to develop talent.


What do you think of Mariner's departure? Disappointed to see him leave MLS? Is your team likely to change coaches this winter, and if so, which of the above candidates do you hope gets the job?

Share your thoughts below.


  1. KC did make the playoffs both seasons he was there. PV did not have any more success after they fired CO. You could argue it was worse. Sometimes you never know the mandate management has laid on the coach as far as who to play. CO also did not select the players on the roster – PV did. And sometimes the TD wants to really be the coach and can help line things up to help the coach fail.

  2. Well Atomizer. Yes, I have met him and I know what happened with him and Eric. I do not listen to, spread, or put any faith in what someone might know. I am in a position to know these things and as unfortunate the entire sitaution was, it does not excuse the fact that over ten years later, Harkes is not trusted to be an assistant coach. Why? Because people who know soccer know that he cannot be trusted.

  3. Pete — do you actually know Harkes? And do you actually know what happened with his being let go from the national side in ’98, or do you just eagerly snap up any rumor you hear and regard it as fact?

  4. As a Kansas City Wizards fan, I can tell you why Curt Onalfo wasn’t on this list… just look at the disaster of a season the Wizards have had. Onalfo, while being a nice-enough guy, was FIRED after a 6-0 shellacking at the hands of FC Dallas. You can’t put all of the blame at his feet, but the tactics and player selection left a lot to be desired.

  5. You think DC will turn itself around with JOHN HARKES???????? The guy is an terrible broadcaster and an even worse person. Ask him someday about the Wynalda incident on the national team. Obviously “Captain For Life” did not really work out to well.

    Harksey at the helm of DC will look something like NY Redbulls led by Jaun Carlso Osario. At least we will all get to see the REAL John Harkes.

  6. I’d give odds on John Spencer ending up in Toronto if, as expected, interim coach Chris Cummins isn’t kept on.

    (SBI-I wouldn’t be so sure Cummins isn’t kept if TFC gets into the playoffs. Will be tough to let him go then.)

  7. Not sure if Cirovski’s style of ooaching (I played for him as well) would work with professional players. I would equate that to when guys like Rick Pitino, Tarkanian and Carliesimo tried to coach in the NBA. Great college coaches but when they went to the NBA they couldn’t motivate the players the way they did in college.

  8. Mariner was my choice to be the top interview. The rest really are all just Williams anyway..players and assitants looking for their first big gig.

  9. Vasquez at Chivas USA would be a perfect fit. great knowledge of California/Mexican soccer and solid international experience. also hope Robin Fraser gets a shot. either him or Spencer would be great for Colorado, assuming a lame showing in the playoffs.

  10. I meant “clamoring.”

    The excitement of a returm to Chicago is overwhelming.

    My wife loves it there!

    I see McBride in Goal!

  11. I’m not going to go crazy over this decision, because as any fan of this club knows they will almost definitely make the wrong one, and we’ll see a new manager asap.

    If you include the interim guys we’ve seen 12 coaches in 13 seasons. For some reason this never bothers most fans, who will call for a coach’s head after one loss (see literally ever coach we’ve had, including the one who took us to the cup final). What I want to see, for the first time EVER, is a fricking guy given a chance to build this team over three seasons. PLEASE. I am sick to death of having my favorite team on this planet be a laughing stock, and yes part of that involves the fact that we go through managers like most people go through toilet paper.

  12. Cienfuegos? Ossorio?

    I read and interview with Robin Fraser a few years ago. It’s not much to go on but I remember thinking after reading it that he could be an MLS head coach.

  13. too bad he played a big role in the Revs for a while. maybe Plymouth is a future landing point for Kevin Alston and other Rev’s prospects after a year or two of solid MLS play.

  14. @AI17

    When your an assistant on a team that is good year after year you will be thought of as a potential great coach regardless of what sport you’re in.

    He was good enough for a Championship club to think he was worth signing.

  15. Hey Ives,

    How do you know about Martin Vasquez possibly getting a shot at coaching ChivasUSA? Where did you get that intel?

    Also, many of the players Preki has brought along are represented by his brother who is a player agent. Many of these players have recieved absurd amounts of playing time while younger players sit on the bench. Iwonder if this is why he prefers hyper-defensive bunker ball?

    Just thought KC and Chicago might want to know.

  16. Why do people continue to say Paul Mariner would be a great coach when during his tenure at MLS, he’s never been a head coach?

    I’m asking because I’m trying to see how people have come to this conclusion.

  17. Brian McBride as player coach for Chicago. To me he seems a natural for something like this. Well respected and still at the top of his game. Hometown boy. He has to have a future in coaching. It just seems the right fit.

  18. Unrelated note, SI lists the U-17 squad with the big three missing. Renken is injured but the other two are at pro-clubs developing. Why would being at a club eliminate Gyau, and Letget, sorry for spelling?

  19. Hey Ives – who do you see taking the rbny job if they don’t go with Williams? Doesn’t seem like there’s too many candidates with more head coaching experience than him – is it really possible they would bring in someone with no experience in the league?

    (SBI-That’s just it, Williams is the best fit for New York but I’m not sure we can assume Red Bull will make the right decision. If Salzburg is getting involved, it could very well hire a foreign coach with no MLS ties, which I think could have disaster written all over it. Would it really be a surprise? The folks from Salzburg might look at its two hires, Bruce Arena and Juan Carlos Osorio, and decide that it hasn’t had success with coaches with MLS ties.)

  20. I guess we can infer that you don’t foresee a line of clubs seeking Tom Soehn’s services in the event that DC United fires him.

    I mean…I don’t either. He’s terrible. But that’s just my being a jaded, disgruntled fan.


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