It seems as though with each passing season in Major League Soccer we get a new crop of coaches in the league. Last year we got a couple new coaches and this season was no different with five new managers roaming the sidelines.
After seven weeks I feel as though we know a greater deal about each coach. Some are doing very well while others are still navigating the tricky and difficult MLS waters.
Typically at this time of the year we can begin to see a coaching hot seat forming and while I may get to that soon, I felt it was better to take a step back and see how the newcomers were fairing. Here is how I see them all doing so far this season with the sophomore coaches included as well.
Marco Schallibaum (Montreal Impact)
I was pretty harsh on Schallibaum to begin the season. I called him a lame duck coach due to his one year contract and I know most of you Impact fans out there hated me for that. Well, I am the type that can admit when I was wrong and so far I have been very wrong about the way he has been coaching his club. It hasn’t been anything special, no flashy play or dominant shutouts but what Schallibaum has done with the Impact is made them a more complete team so far. They know what they are good at (counter attack-style attacking and hard nose defense) and they have the right players in tact to get the job done. Also, having a MVP-type candidate roaming the midfield in Patrice Bernier doesn’t hurt one bit.
WVH Grade: A+
Caleb Porter (Portland Timbers)
The first few games were a little rough for the Timbers. Defensively they couldn’t seem to stop anyone while the offense was doing just enough to get by. But then a smart change took place and the last two games we’ve seen Diego Chara become more of a midfield force for the Timbers. The Timbers still only have one loss to their name this season with the two recent wins and three draws. Not a bad start at all in my eyes. Porterball is starting to show but the real test will be how his club does away from the friendly confines of JELD-WEN Field. The jury is still out a bit on this one but so far the early returns look good.
WVH Grade: B
Mike Petke (New York Red Bulls)
So much talent and so may injuries to deal with. So say Mike Pekte’s job is an easy one would be a harsh understatement. The first few weeks were very difficult for Pekte’s Red Bulls. Injuries piled up on both sides of the ball and the offense struggled to really connect. But a funny thing would have it as the last two games we’ve seen the Red Bulls pull through and get results. Part of that was Thierry Henry’s doing and the other part was seeing the defense step up and play together for a change.
If Petke can navigate how to deal with Henry and find a way to keep this team healthy for long stretches, they will be a competitive side this year. Things are looking up in the Big Apple but they could also change any day as well with the potential of a third DP added later this year.
WVH Grade: C+
Ryan Nelsen (Toronto FC)
We all shook our heads when this hire was made but moving closer towards the third month of the season we are starting to see exactly why Kevin Payne brought Ryan Nelsen on board in Toronto. The defense has improved under him and the offense is slowly starting to click. The new additions like Robert Earnshaw are making a difference while roster spots are starting to actually be competitive for a change at BMO Field. Things appear better on the surface in Toronto than ever before, and maybe that is due to the super low expectations that were placed on this club. If they can bring in some DP-level talent later this season, they could sneak up on people.
WVH Grade: B
José Luis Sánchez Sola (Chivas USA)
El Chelis has been every bit as entertaining as we would have hoped for in this early season. To be honest, this group had no where else to go but up after last season so the early results have been extremely positive. We all expected a train wreck to begin the year but boy were we ever so wrong. There have been some bumps along the way like last weekend against Colorado. The possession style play that Chelis enjoys using works but if the offense isn’t going to be able to finish the final pass, it could make for a long season after all. Still, at the very least it has been fun to watch in Chivasland. That is something we could never say before this season.
WVH Grade: A
Oscar Pareja (Colorado Rapids)
After a long and rough first year as a manager, things look even worse for Pareja going into 2013. Injury after injury to key players has hurt his club to start the new season. But lately things appear better after two straight wins. The Rapids are getting good returns out of young players like Dillon Powers and Deshorn Brown and once the rest of the roster gets healthy, Pareja could have a team that may make some noise. The question will be though, will it be enough? Or will it be too late? I think Pareja has done good enough with what he has had to work with so far this year. His style of play hasn’t been seen due to injuries but lately it has worked out.
WVH Grade: C
Jay Heaps (New England Revolution)
On one hand Heaps has transformed his club into a defensive power house. Only two goals given up all season long. But on the other hand his club’s offense is fairly weak, with the fewest goals scored in MLS. So some good with some bad in year number two. At least for now Heaps can say that his club is better than two others in his own conference with D.C. and Chicago both sitting just below the Revs. The offense has to improve before we see this grade go up though. I don’t see this defensive group carrying this club too much further this season without some help. It will happen but just like with Pareja, will it be too late when it does?
WVH Grade: C
Martin Rennie (Vancouver Whitecaps)
I think it is fair to say that the Whitecaps should have learned their lesson by now when it comes to building a roster in MLS. Last year the Whitecaps looked great early on but towards the middle of the season the transfers and moves made by Rennie and his staff broke up the flow of this club. The result as we know it was a crash and burn style towards the fifth seed in the Western Conference. Fast forward to this season and the Whitecaps are already off to a similar start. Tied with four other Western clubs in the early going with 8 points. There has been some good (better play out of Kenny Miller) and some not so good (some locker room issues with younger players like Omar Salgado) already this season.
WVH Grade: B
John Hackworth (Philadelphia Union)
After getting over the whole Freddy Adu thing, Hackworth has seemed to settle his club down a good bit in the early going of the season. The Union are good enough so far in the East with Jack McInereny earning some early praise from the media. The thing about this club right now is that they will be competitive in nearly every game this season but they do go cold for stretches at a time in games that could come back to bite them later on. The midfield needs some balancing out in order to improve and that should come with time.
WVH Grade: B-