By Clemente Lisi – NEW YORK, NY (Aug 3, 2020) US Soccer Players – The MLS is Back Tournament had its first coaching casualty when Atlanta United FC parted ways with Frank de Boer. In his place, the team promoted Stephen Glass as interim. Glass, who coached USL side ATL UTD 2, takes over while the team conducts a coaching search. Moving on from de Boer seems bold, but going 0-3 last month at MLS is Back while failing to score a goal also counts in the league table. Whatever might become of the 2020 MLS season, Atlanta United is in a tough spot.
MLS, like other pro leagues around the world, has seen its share of coaching carousels. It’s no surprise given the investment by owners and high stakes nature of having to compete for an MLS Cup as well as other tournaments during the course of a season. For de Boer, winning the Campeones Cup and US Cup last year wasn’t enough to save his job after the disappointment of MLS is Back.
“Stephen not only has professional experience as a player at the highest levels of the sport, he is a proven leader and is well respected as a coach by his players and staff,” team president Darren Eales said in a statement. “We have great confidence that Stephen will re-energize the team and move the club in the right direction during this transition period.”
The league has a long history of interim coaches, some staying on for as little as a few games. Others did so well over the course of a season that they got the job full time. What’s in store for the Scottish-born Glass this season? While MLS turned 25 this season, the events of the past few months have been unprecedented. A global pandemic put the season on hold back in March, only to return in a tournament format in Orlando this summer. The hope is the regular season returns in some form this year.
With so much uncertainty, here’s a look at five interim coaches who went on to enjoy success with their teams.
Robert Warzycha (Columbus Crew)
A former player with the Crew, Warzycha became an assistant coach with the team. After head coach Greg Andrulis lost his job in July 2005 with the team in last place in the Eastern Conference with a 4-10-2 record, Warzycha took over as interim manager. Success didn’t come quickly. Just 40 years old at the time, he helped the Crew to a 11-16-5 regular-season record, finishing last in the conference.
Under Warzycha, the Crew managed to go 7-6-3. Only Real Salt Lake and Chivas USA had lower point totals that season. Warzycha was once again an assistant under new coach Sigi Schmid at the start of the 2006 season. He would wait three years and an MLS Cup win to get another shot at the top job.
When Schmid left for Seattle, Warzycha was Columbus’s choice. Named head coach ahead of the 2009 season, he ultimately amassed a 70-41-59 lifetime record with Columbus, helping the team capture the Supporters’ Shield that year. All coaches know how their stories normally end. Warzycha lost the Crew job in September 2013. The Crew would finish eighth in the Eastern Conference and out of the playoffs.
Denis Hamlett (Chicago Fire)
Hamlett was a former player who got an assistant job with the expansion Chicago Fire in 1998 under Bob Bradley. He stayed in that role for the better part of a decade, eventually taking over as interim on June 20, 2007, in place of Dave Sarachan. Hamlett went 0-1-2 and returned to his assistant coaching duties with the arrival of Juan Carlos Osorio. After just 15 games, Osorio went over to the New York Red Bulls. That opened the door for Hamlett to take over as head coach ahead of the 2008 season.
Hamlett coached the Fire for two seasons, going 13-10-7 in 2008 and 11-7-12 in 2009. He led that ’09 version of the Fire to a 2nd-place finish and the Eastern Conference semifinals. Management expected more, dismissing Hamlett in November 2009. Hamlett’s lifetime Fire record of 24-21-18 was complimented by reaching back-to-back Eastern Conference Finals and losing the 2009 SuperLiga final. The club has yet to do as well in the MLS playoffs.
Tom Soehn (New England Revolution)
A former player with the Dallas Burn and the Fire, Tom Soehn was Peter Nowak’s assistant at DC United in 2003. During his time as the top assistant, the team captured the 2004 MLS Cup and a Supporters’ Shield the following year. After Nowak left the team, Soehn took the head coaching job in 2006.
In November 2009, Soehn decided not to have his contract renewed, ending a three-year run that included a Supporters’ Shield in 2007 and the Open Cup in 2008. After serving as director of soccer operations for the Vancouver Whitecaps, he was named head coach in May 2011 after Teitur Thordarson was let go. Soehn left the job at the end of the 2012 season.
In 2014, Soehn served as an assistant to Jay Heaps at the New England Revolution with the team 10-14-5 and in eighth place in the Eastern Conference. Heaps lost that job in September 2017 with Soehn named interim coach, the first and only time he held that tag ahead of his job title. He went 3-1-1 for the Revs before signing with USL side Birmingham Legion FC.
Steve Nichol (New England Revolution)
Another interim coach for the Revolution was ex-Liverpool star Steve Nichol. In 2002, Nicol took over as head coach on an interim basis after the club fired Fernando Clavijo following a 2-4-1 start to the season. Nicol took the job permanently after 21 games. The team finished fifth in the Eastern Conference with a 12-14-2 record, but advanced to MLS Cup. That won Nicol Coach of the Year honors.
Nicol coached the Revs for a decade. Nichol and the team mutually parted ways in 2011. Over his run, the team made four MLS Cup finals. He wrapped up his Revs career with a 112-108-81 record, making him one of the best coaches in league history.
Brian Schmetzer (Seattle Sounders FC)
Arguably the most successful interim coach in NLS history, Schmetzer was originally a candidate for the head coaching position with Seattle in 2008. With the job going to Schmid, Schmetzer became his assistant. Schmetzer had filled in for Schmid as head coach four times going 3-0-1 when he took over on an interim basis on July 26, 2016.
Seattle finished the season fourth in the Western Conference with a 14-14-6 record and made the playoffs. Schmid got the job on a permanent basis during the playoffs, saving him from becoming the first interim coach to win MLS Cup. Schmetzer, who has a lifetime coaching record at Seattle of 72-33-40, won a second MLS Cup last year.
Clemente Lisi is a regular contributor to US Soccer Players. He is also the author of A History of the World Cup: 1930-2018. Find him on Twitter:http://twitter.com/ClementeLisi.
More from Clemente Lisi:
- MLS is Back already tells a story
- 5 standout American players in Europe in 2019-20
- The USA at the 1930 World Cup
- 5 things for the MLS is Back tournament
Photo by Robin Alam – ISIPhotos.com