Thoughts on coaching vacancies and on United’s rejection by Akron’s Porter

Kevin Payne: If I’m smiling, that means the deal probably isn’t done yet.

Less than a month away from the draft, how is it that three MLS clubs including two with past records of success and front office competance still don’t have head coaches in place? Let’s take this one at a time:

  • New York – Well, Red Bull did just get done hiring Erik Soler to run player personnel but still, shouldn’t they have had some idea who was out there and whether they’d say yes in advance of the Soler signing? Assuming Soler signed off on the pick, it then shouldn’t this long to get a coach signed. Clearly, they’re looking for someone foreign but if the right candidate doesn’t emerge overseas, will the club look closer to home for a guy like Richie Williams, Robin Fraser, or even Bob Gansler or go with the best available foreign guy regardless of how he stacks up against the domestically-based candidates? Mercifully for Red Bull fans, the Tony Adams flirtation appears to have passed but still, that wasn’t a good sign that Red Bull is barking up the right trees. We’ll see if Soler can right that.
  • Chicago – I’m really surprised that Chicago hasn’t made up its mind either. This, unlike NY, is an organization with a history of basic competency. Williams and Fraser have been linked with this job too and I suspect that Chicago is just taking its time picking between the two. I’d go with Richie but folks who’ve worked with Fraser tend to really respect him, so I think the Fire would be fine with either of them.
  • DC United – Oh boy, the home-town team finds itself thoroughly embarrassed after Caleb Porter, the coach of Akron, turned down a DC United contract offer in favor of a five-year extention from the Zips. As Charles Boehm rightly put it, it’s “the latest, coldest, wettest splash of reality to dampen [United’s] heads over the past 3+ years.” I’d first heard and subsequently thought that Porter’s agent manufactured most of this interest and that he may never have been offered the job. But Ives confirmed that he had been offered the job and rejected it. It continues to be hard to imagine that a young, successful college coach would turn down a chance to coach a previously winning club like DC United to stay in the MAC. It’s clearly a knock against DC that they couldn’t get this deal done after clearly expressing interest in the guy. Sound familiar? Of course it does. This is the “new United,” one that never can finish the deal. From stadiums (what happened to the update coming around Thanksgiving?), to players (remember Veron?) and now Caleb friggin Porter, this is a club that talks very big and, so far, continues to achieve very little. If DC was smart, they’d go out and get Richie Williams already because he combines some history of success in MLS’ most difficult club along with being a fan favorite. Williams also doesn’t bring the stench of past failure that Curt Onalfo (another likely fallback) brings from KC.

I should also add, in the wake of a bit of “blowharddom” on my part, I felt slightly better about Porter as a candidate for United after watching Akron do okay in losing in a shootout in the College Cup. It’s not Porter’s fault that they lost the shootout. Still, having a college coach in his 30s reject DC United is a pretty big blow to the pride of this club. Anyone who thinks that United is exceptional as a club in MLS now is deluding themselves. United is just like everyone else now. There is no question that MLS has gotten better since DC last won and that United has gotten worse. But the days of DC being at the forefront of MLS are long gone. That has all changed.

Once, I thought that DC would never miss the playoffs in consecutive seasons.

Once, I thought that DC would never find itself rejected by a MAC soccer coach.

Once, I thought that DC could show the rest of the league how to run an organization.

Once, I thought this organization behaved with more class than any other.

Once, I thought that United would never enter its 15th season without a stadium of its own.

Once, I thought that DC United would never, ever move out of the DC area.

When will DC United stop proving me wrong?


13 thoughts on “Thoughts on coaching vacancies and on United’s rejection by Akron’s Porter

  1. I don’t think Porter electing to stay at Akron is “a knock against DC” at all.

    Rather, I believe Porter felt that this wasn’t the right time in his career to make that move. Akron ponied up a pile of cash and Porter gets to finish what he started.

    When he does, his price tag will be a lot higher.

    If you’ve got a complaint, it’s that DC seems to have put it’s eggs in one basket, basically, without knowing whether the basket was even interested.

  2. It’s been very rare for MLS to lure away college coaches, because the job security for a winning college coach is so much greater than for any coach in MLS. Between Sigi Schmid (1999) and Schellas Hyndman (2008), there was nobody. Porter is much more likely to last another 5 years at Akron than he would be to last 5 years at any MLS club, even if he turned out to be an above-average MLS coach.

  3. My complaint is not that they put all their eggs in one basket, it is that the other basket is Onalfo. If there are not MLS people that are more promising than Caleb Porter (who was intriguing, but by no means an obvious good choice) then best to look abroad.

    I am not sure that DC should be that coveted a job. They used to be considered the premier team in MLS, but that just isn’t (or at least shouldn’t be) the case anymore. While their 4 trophies/titles this decade are nice, Chicago has the same, while LA, Columbus, and the Houston/San Jose relocated bunch all have more. Plus DC has missed the playoffs two years running.

    DC just might have the worst stadium situation in the league. While their fans are great (of which I count myself), they are no longer the standard bearers. Yet, they still also might have the highest level of expectation because of the history of United. DC have almost no players at the peak of their career and the front office is going to maintain a high level of control over personnel decisions.

  4. I liked that United was considering (and clearly favoring) hiring a coach from outside the MLS circle. And despite the fact that Porter hadn’t won a championship as a coach, I thought he was a more exciting name than either Onalfo or Williams.
    But after watching Akron lose in the final, I thought the likelihood of him leaving his “boys” was small. Maybe, had he won, he’d have considered the jump to MLS, but my guess is that he feels that he his work at Akron is unfinished and therefore, despite the tempting offer, he couldn’t leave.
    So, who does that leave us with? What options are there to choose from?
    Curt Onalfo?
    Richie Williams?
    Denis Hamlett?
    Can you really fault DC United for going for something new (even though they failed to get it?) Clearly, they’re not excited about the MLS-experienced options either.

  5. And to your point that Porter’s job security at Akron is far beyond what it would be in MLS, that’s also the reason why Hyndman spurned MLS for so long and why HSG had to give him a lot in terms of money and contract length to get him to come to FCD.

    After all, he could’ve coached at SMU until the day he died. But at FCD, he’s already got fans wanting him gone after less than two seasons.

  6. Maybe Porter felt that as a plodding defensive Midwesterner, he was unqualified to coach the beautiful flowing entertaining game played at DC.

    Or maybe not.

  7. Also Aaron my freind, not to pile on, but a couple of days ago you opined that bringing in Porter would be bad for DC, and now you’re saying that NOT bringing in Porter is bad for DC.

  8. And to use your own previous entry, wasn’t your supposition that Payne was looking to Porter a sign that Payne (and Kaspar) were looking for more control – not less?

    At Akron, Porter has near complete control over players and tactics. At DC, he’d be giving up most of that, especially being the “new guy.” He certainly wasn’t going to get what Bruce Arena got in Los Angeles (nor should he).

    It’s one thing to say Porter turned down the job, knowing what the job was is a bit trickier. Not all head coaching jobs have the same responsibilities. And it’s not unheard of for a GM/TD to use a head coach as the fall guy for their mistakes.

  9. The last half season would have those fans looking pretty stupid, seeing that most of the roster moves that caused the upswing were a result of moves made under Hyndman’s watch.

  10. The only hole I see in this theory is, supposing Hyndman gets fired, what has he really lost? I doubt it would be all that tough for him to get another NCAA job. Andrulis did.

  11. I sure hope that was purely tongue in cheek, because I love Akron’s style. With a few more years of recruiting players that fit the style, Lebron may have to relinquish his goofy “king of AK” license plates.

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