By Tony Edwards – San Jose, CA (Oct 31, 2013) US Soccer Players – In Thursday’s column, Tony asks why Martin Rennie and Frank Klopas are no longer coaching in MLS, analyzes Salt Lake’s new shirt deal, and wonders if there are any measurable differences in the first few picks in the college draft.
What were the reasons behind the Whitecaps not continuing with Martin Rennie as coach?
It depends on what you read. According to Marc Weber in The Province, it was the lack of development of younger players, with Russell Teibert, Gershon Koffie, Darren Mattocks, and Kekuta Manneh specifically cited. Whitecaps General Manager Bob Lenarduzzi told the league’s website that the team had clear goals (make the playoffs and qualify for the Champions League through the Canadian route) that weren’t achieved.
However, no matter what you think of Rennie’s game management or his consistent use of players who played well for him in Carolina versus trusting younger players, developing younger players and winning are often two different things. This is true in any sport anywhere in the world. No one rationally expects the Jacksonville Jaguars or Houston Astros to be contenders while tearing down their rosters and building through the draft and player development process, for instance.
It’s legitimate to question if the player development angle is a path to success in MLS. The teams that do develop younger players, such as Los Angeles or Salt Lake, have a strong infrastructure in place that puts the younger players in positions to not only get minutes, but to grow and succeed. I’m in no way suggesting the coach isn’t accountable, but the messages from Vancouver are noticeably mixed.
What were the reasons behind Frank Klopas stepping down as the Fire’s head coach?
Klopas, and director of soccer operations Javier Leon, both “stepped down” from their respective positions this week, with the Fire heading to the cliché store as they “commence a search for new leadership.” How they didn’t get “international” or “world-wide” in there is beyond me, but it took less than a day for the club to announce the hiring of former San Jose head coach Frank Yallop.
Ostensibly, Klopas’ record was good, as he was 39-29-23 as head coach during the regular season. To be fair, while it seemed like the Fire never really convinced on the field, their problems run a lot deeper than just the on-field issues (average attendance 15,228 according to MLS).
The Fire used to be prime contributors to the US National Team, for instance. They had recognizable players and a style. Now, unless you’re a fan, can you name two contributors other than Austin Berry, Sean Johnson, and Mike Magee? In a crowded market with no low-hanging fruit, in a stadium in a village, not actively giving people a reason to come to your games is a problem. That’s not solely the fault of the coach or the club’s president.
Which team in MLS history had the most points and didn’t make the playoffs?
It was not San Jose this season (51 points), but Columbus last season who fell short with 52 points.
What does a lot of points and not qualifying for the playoffs really mean? That there were probably a few uncompetitive teams, probably too many ties that should have been wins, and perhaps not taking enough of the expected points.
Is the Salt Lake shirt sponsorship deal good for the team and the league?
It’s always good when sponsors want to spend serious money on professional soccer in this country. Even more so when it’s a local-to-Utah company like LifeVantage, based in Salt Lake City. You can make a case that there is more value to a local company to support a popular team than there is for a national sponsor, given the league’s national television ratings.
I’d be less-than-honest if I told you I’d heard of LifeVantage before this week. I’d also point out that this is a “science-based network marketing company” (their words, not mine). You can sell it as a team in a small market getting a substantial commitment from a local company, and that’s good for all involved.
According to the league’s website, Toronto’s win over Montreal last Saturday meant the First Round draft pick TFC sent to Vancouver would be the #3 pick and not the #2 pick. Is there really any difference at this point?
This past year, Chivas USA picked Carlos Alvarez second and TFC took Kyle Bekker third. In 2012 Vancouver took Darren Mattocks second and the Revolution took Kelwyn Rowe. In 2011 Portland took Darlington Nagbe second and DC took Perry Kitchen third. So the point is, you should be getting a player who can contribute with those picks. But the draft is usually deep enough that there shouldn’t be a huge difference in quality between the second and third picks if you do your homework.
Tony Edwards is a soccer writer from the Bay Area.