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?