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ProSoccerTalk’s Award conversations: Major League Soccer Coach of the Year

Oct 29, 2012, 8:30 PM EDT

San Jose Earthquakes v Seattle Sounders Getty Images

Three soccer brains are clearly better than one. So Richard Farley, Noah Davis and I huddled up virtually to sort out our ProSoccerTalk picks for Major League Soccer awards.

We started with Coach of the Year:

Steve Davis: All right guys, the other day on a radio show I just kind of prattled something off the top of my head about D.C. United’s Ben Olsen being the obvious choice. But I find life without a backspace key brings out the stupid in me. Not that Olsen is a bad choice; first playoff berth for United since 2007? No Dwayne De Rosario at the end? And he’s the league’s youngest coach?

But I talked about it like there was no choice to be made. Which really is quite stupid. (It was too early; no more radio interviews without morning coffee for me!)

So, who wants to make the case for … can I get a Frank Yallop? …

Richard Farley: I’ll gladly do so, since I was the PST guy that fell in love with San Jose at the beginning of the season. If Frank’s still driving, I’m still riding.

For Coach of the Year, I look for what a guy did with the talent he had, but I want to be able to point to specific examples (just in case a Steve Davis of the world asked me to go on record). By this standard, Yallop’s got the best case.

At the beginning of the season, few were picking San Jose to make the playoffs. The West was tough, and their talent just didn’t look up to snuff. Early on, though, it was apparent that he had fused the parts together to create a greater sum. In a year in which they were supposed to be gone by November, San Jose cruised to the Supporters’

Shield, Yallop’s setup getting career years out of almost all of his regular starting XI. You could say all the stars aligned for him, but that’s a lot of stars and a very straight line. It’s far more plausible that Yallop’s done an incredible job.

If he needs more support, look at San Jose’s late match effectively.

Not only does that speak to the changes Yallop makes in-game (San Jose is regularly a completely different team come full time), but it also tells of the mentality he’s helped instill in the team.

Noah Davis: I’ll see your Yallop — the Goonies can’t win all the post-season awards — and raise you my midseason pick, Mr. Martin Rennie. Getting that Whitecaps team to the promised land of the playoffs, even if it is simply to lose to the Galaxy, ain’t no thang. That roster, being kind here, is not that good. Sure, Jay DeMerit is the best on-field leader in MLS but someone has to put the pieces on the field. While I didn’t love all the moves they made up in the Great White North, they made enough to eek into the post-season. Now it’s time for the real test.

Steve Davis: Hmmm. I think Noah has already run out of provisions in his NY bunker. Somebody rush the man over some Slim Jims and a mineral water. Stat!

Rennie helped erect that crane and wrecking ball they took to a team that was doing pretty well. They “rebuilt” the roster to within an inch of its life.  I like the guy personally, but I just don’t think the final product in 2012 speaks well of him.

source: Getty Images

Richard Farley: Crane and wrecking ball? Is that an allusion to Merritt Paulson and John Spencer? Very clever, Mr. Davis.

Steve Davis: So, you are advocating John Spencer then?  I kid, I kid! Anybody else we need to consider before moving on to Rookie of the Year?

Richard Farley: I’d be curious to hear your guys’ thoughts on Chicago’s Frank Klopas [pictured].

Steve Davis: Meh.

Noah Davis: I’m with Steve. Too late to throw my lot in with Yallop?

Steve Davis: Got you down, Noah. So I’m out-voted. Democracy rules. Thomas freakin’ Jefferson got nothing on us.

Our Pick: San Jose’s FRANK YALLOP

  1. tylerbetts - Oct 29, 2012 at 9:13 PM

    Yallop – I see the argument.
    Olsen – I see and love the argument.
    Rennie – I don’t see the argument.
    Klopas – I could understand the argument.

    But – absolutely no love for Peter Vermes? Really.

    Second-best record in MLS. Not a bad place to start off a campaign. Dealing with a rapidly changing team with injuries coming in and out? Again, not a bad place to start off a campaign. Performing well in the face of high expectations? A great and often overlooked piece of the puzzle (I tire of all sports giving manager of the year to the manager who does the most with the least and somehow gets a rag tag band to overachieve. Sometimes, the best manager is the guy who is able to do what’s expected with a very good team). And, the cherry-on-top part of the argument – he successfully managed two competitions, guiding his team to a very good MLS regular season, and winning the US Open Cup.

    • Steve Davis - Oct 29, 2012 at 9:45 PM

      It’s a fair point. Probably should have been brought up in the conversation. Thing is, everybody pretty much expected SKC to be right where they are today. Kudos for that, too, but CoY is usually awarded to a man whose team exceeded expectations, rather than just managing the team to its presumed place.

    • Richard Farley - Oct 29, 2012 at 10:14 PM

      Agree w/ Steve and you, he deserves a mention. That’s the cool thing about good commenters. You help us round out these conversations.

      Vermes has obviously done a good job. In these conversations, we underestimate the value of keeping a team on track (look how few Coach of the Year awards sit on Phil Jackson’s shelves). However, I can think of a few criticisms I have with what Vermes has or hasn’t done. I’m sure he’s had good reasons for his decisions, but that’s an awfully talented group, too.

      • tylerbetts - Oct 30, 2012 at 7:19 PM

        The Phil Jackson argument makes the case for me. Why does Phil Jackson have as many coach of the year awards as Mike Brown? Because the media has this self-fulfilling prophecy that the coach of the year has to be the guy who exceeds expectations. And then, naturally, the media also likes to talk about the narrative of how tough it is to repeat, and how teams often struggle with meeting high expectations.

      • Richard Farley - Oct 30, 2012 at 7:23 PM

        Great points. Exceeding expectations is good criteria, but it can’t be the only criteria. If you just say “he did more than we thought,” you’re really not establishing any causation.

      • wfjackson3 - Oct 31, 2012 at 12:02 AM

        Guys guys guys. Right where you expected them to be? Awfully talented group? So, how many of you predicted SKC would win their first 7 games of the season? How many figured that C.J. Sapong would be developed well enough to step in full-time for Bunbury and keep the offense going? How many expected the teams defense to be lights out if Collin went out again this year (to the bench) after the slump we had when he was injured last year? How many predicted that Zusi would continue to develop well enough to make a serious impact on the USMNT?

        It’s not just that SKC has talent. Its not just that we all expected them to win the East. Its not just that we expect them to contend for the title. The case for Vermes is how he is developing the talent in the SKC system. Compare Sapong from last year to this year. Olum. Zusi even. Guys, the talent is great because Vermes is doing a fantastic job of helping his players to get better.

        And lets not forget that SKC doesn’t play a mauling style of grotesque but effective soccer, Collin excluded. It’s just too easy to say SKC met expectations and stop looking. The evidence is there.

  2. ndnut - Oct 29, 2012 at 11:21 PM

    My 4 in no order are Klopas, Vermes Yallop, and Kreis out in Utah. 2 seed in the West is pretty darn impressive to me. I know that someone will then question why Klopas is on and Olsen isn’t, but I feel that Klopas did more with less and Olsen kinda underachieved and barely squeaked in at 2 in the East.

  3. danielofthedale - Oct 30, 2012 at 9:16 AM

    My list: 1-Yallop, 2-Olsen, 3-Klopas. I thought San Jose would be an after thought this seas past August. Yet not only were they not, they easily won the Supporters Shield. He coached career seasons from Lenhart and Gordan, got 13 or assist out of Marvin Chavez, and worked wonders on the back line. I think its one of the best coaching jobs in years in MLS.

    I have Olsen number two for not just keeping the team afloat after losing DeRo but helping Pontius get back to his old form quickly after his injury at the end of last season, put DeLeon in the right spots to succed as a rookie and sorting out his defense. Klopas is third mostly because I expect the Fire to make the playoffs, just not this Fire team. Brining in Friedrich to mentor Berry was a great move. Having the guts to bench Oduro and bring in MacDonald to start was a very smart move. He did what Renie could not, change large portions of this starting XI in season and make the team better than it was before.

    But thats just my two cents.

    • Steve Davis - Oct 30, 2012 at 10:32 AM

      Good thoughts, all. I like your reasoning on Klopas, but for me it’s hard to get past the team’s flat finish. Opposite of Olsen and United that way.

      • Richard Farley - Oct 30, 2012 at 3:06 PM

        A lot depends on what you think of Chicago’s talent, too. Some are very high on their collection of players. Others are more inclined to see Klopas with needle and thread making something out of shreds.

  4. eatcheson - Oct 30, 2012 at 10:33 AM

    Not trying to be a homer, but I was also amazed that Peter Vermes didn’t even merit a mention.

    Yes, so far, his team has met expectations. But he’s also the team’s GM as well as its head coach, and he managed to make a team with those sorts of expectations without shelling out ridiculous money for a single DP. On that score, Yallop and SJE has him met and beat. But just about every other playoff-bound team has shelled out DP money:

    Chicago: Sherjill MacDonald, Alvaro Fernandez (albeit via trade)
    DC United: Hamdi Salihi
    NYRB: Henry, Rafa, Cahill
    Houston: Oscar Boniek Garcia
    LA: Donovan, Becks, Keane
    RSL: Javier Morales, Alvaro Saborio
    Seattle: Tiffert, Rosales, Montero
    Vancouver: Robson, Miller

    Meanwhile, SKC lost both of its DPs–Jeferson and Omar Bravo (granted, Jeferson wasn’t much of a loss, but losing Bravo and his goalscoring abilities definitely hurt).

    I know that MLS aims for a lot of parity, but Vermes won a second conference title in a row despite losing one of his leading scorers from last year. That’s impressive.

    All of that being said–even though I am an SKC fan, I certainly cannot quibble with your ultimate conclusion. Yallop definitely is worthy of the honor.

    • Richard Farley - Oct 30, 2012 at 3:04 PM

      Good points, but the GM stuff isn’t part of the picture.

  5. manutebol - Oct 30, 2012 at 1:02 PM

    – Frank Yallop

    – bunch of chaff
    – Klopas
    – nobody

    • Steve Davis - Oct 30, 2012 at 8:19 PM

      Funny. Don’t really agree, but it sure made me chuckle.

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