Skip to content

Considering Ryan Nelsen and new MLS managers: What kind of experience counts?

Jan 8, 2013, 10:44 AM EDT

Nelsen 2

(Update: The Nelsen hire is official, but there is some weirdness afoot with the new manager’s starting date. Read about it here.)

If reports out of Toronto are to be believed – and there’s no reason to think them wrong at this point – Ryan Nelsen will be named Toronto FC manager today.

For the worriers and fearful out there, you probably have some reason to fret here.

Start with the lack of success around Toronto FC, where seven managers have come and gone, none having ever guided the Reds to a playoff spot. Chris Cummins, percentage points above .500 with a 12-11-8 mark, was technically the most “successful.”

So, at some point, you have to wonder if the rot is at the top; I am certainly not the first to question the true commitment to winning of a professional sports team operated by Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment. So, check that box for properly aimed anguish.

Then there’s Payne as the selector; his choices have a mixed record, as I mentioned yesterday toward the bottom of this post.

Then there’s Nelsen’s lack of experience. On this matter, I say “No worries, man!” I just wouldn’t be too concerned, for history says this can be done.

Nelsen is clearly untested as a manager; he’s 35 years old and counted himself as a fully professional (and highly respected) player just a week ago. But in terms of professional managerial experience, he has every bit as much as you or I.

But here is where I point out that “MLS experience,” even if it’s just as a player, outstrips “managerial experience” as an essential element that provides the best chance for success.

Nelsen may not know much about MLS 2.0; he hasn’t been part of the league since 2005. MLS had just grown to 12 teams that year, with just four dedicated soccer stadiums in use and still carrying a lot of questions about long-term potential.  The growth since then (19 teams, with 16 playing in grounds built, rebuilt or refurbished expressly for MLS clubs) has been nothing short of staggering.

So, it’s a different MLS day. Still, Nelsen understands the essential elements. He knows the history. He gets it. All of which is to say, he won’t be paralyzed by challenges unique to MLS. He won’t stubbornly resist when an owner of GM explains why things are why they are here. He won’t be in denial about which types of players work and don’t work here.

I am not saying he’s a going to be a great manager; no one can know this. I’m just saying, his history in MLS gives provides a good shot.

As for Nelsen’s age? That’s a non-factor. Here’s why:

Jason Kreis was 34 when he became manager at RSL, and was 36 when the men of Rio Tinto won an MLS Cup. (Kreis remains the youngest to win one of those.)

Ben Olsen was 33 when he took over at D.C. United, and that’s turning out pretty well.

Jay Heaps was 35 when he took over New England. His first year was inconclusive, although we have to consider the difficulty in Heaps’s situation. This is a tough place to win; the man is doing what he can at an organization that has been lapped by pretty much every club this side of Chivas USA.

Bottom line: I worry a lot less about Nelsen and his lack of time with the coaching whistle, and a lot more about MLS newbies like Paulo Sousa, who may soon be named at New York, or Jose Luis Sanchez Sola, the new man in charge at Chivas USA, or the Montreal Impact’s new manager Marco Schallibaum.

Young coaches can work in this league. Previous grounding in MLS counts for a lot more than previous work with the coaching whistle.

Latest Posts
  1. MLS playoff update: How does postseason picture look right now?

    Oct 31, 2014, 12:13 AM EDT

    mauro-diaz-10-of-fc-dallas Getty Images

    After FC Dallas and the New York Red Bulls defeated their opponents in the first two games of the MLS playoffs, the postseason picture exists in its beginning stages.

  2. Robbie Keane, regardless of playoffs, will play in US-Ireland match overseas

    Oct 30, 2014, 11:37 PM EDT

    Los Angeles Galaxy  v Chivas USA Getty Images

    Robbie Keane stands ready to play for his international side right after the LA Galaxy’s playoff contests vs. Real Salt Lake.

  3. WATCH: Men in Blazers preview Round 10

    Oct 30, 2014, 9:38 PM EDT

    Can United bounce back from 'that' defeat at Leicester? Getty Images

    Men in Blazers preview Round 10, most notably the Manchester derby.

  4. Fernando Torres on time at Chelsea: ‘I needed to feel important’

    Oct 30, 2014, 8:36 PM EDT

    FBL-EUR-C3-CHELSEA-STEAUA BUCHAREST

    Fernando Torres, expanding on his decision to leave Chelsea on loan, says he wanted to “feel important.”

  5. Sam Allardyce delighted Newcastle hasn’t axed Pardew

    Oct 30, 2014, 7:21 PM EDT

    Alan+Pardew+Sam+Allardyce+VFGweDnwiSUm Getty Images

    West Ham boss Sam Allardyce is happy for the recent triumphs of criticized Newcastle manager Alan Pardew.

  6. Wayne Rooney cleared to play in Manchester derby

    Oct 30, 2014, 6:35 PM EDT

    Will United surge towards the top four with 14 games to go? AP

    Manchester United forward Wayne Rooney will be available in the upcoming Manchester derby following his three-match suspension.

  7. Celtic midfielder Aleksandar Tonev faces seven-game ban over racism

    Oct 30, 2014, 5:56 PM EDT

    Aleksandar-Tonev-529522 Getty Images

    Action taken against alleged racist actions in the Scottish Premiership.

  8. Daniel Sturridge links injury problems to his ‘Carribean vibes’

    Oct 30, 2014, 4:44 PM EDT

    Manchester City Liverpool Soccer AP

    Sturridge on injury woes: “Maybe it’s my body type, maybe it’s hereditary.”

  9. Fabio Capello attempted to ink Messi on loan at Juventus

    Oct 30, 2014, 3:40 PM EDT

    FC Barcelona v Club Leon - Joan Gamper Trophy Getty Images

    A young Messi was eyed by Juventus in 2005, says Russia manager Frank Capello.

  10. Twitter reacts to Los Angeles FC’s entry into Major League Soccer

    Oct 30, 2014, 3:12 PM EDT

    B1NhSSECIAIZL5p

    How has the soccer world (via Twitter) responded to the news? With a mixture of interest and humor.

  11. Los Angeles officially given new MLS team; Magic Johnson, Vincent Tan among investors

    Oct 30, 2014, 2:49 PM EDT

    @MLS @MLS

    In what will be called “Los Angeles Football Club” as it goes through its branding, MLS has announced that L.A. has officially been awarded another team.

  12. PST Extra: Getting you ready for The Manchester Derby (video)

    Oct 30, 2014, 1:35 PM EDT

    Britain Soccer Premier League

    Mike Prindiville and Joe Prince-Wright join Jenna Corrado to discuss the Manchester Derby between Manchester United and Manchester City.

  13. Alan Pardew: The Premier League’s antihero

    Oct 30, 2014, 12:38 PM EDT

    Pardew Getty Images

    Like Steve McQueen in “Papillon,” only nattily-attired, the Newcastle United manager just seems to be constantly yelling out, “Hey… I’m still here.”

  14. Another Premier League club linked with US investor, ex-MLB owner

    Oct 30, 2014, 12:09 PM EDT

    Swansea

    He’s being linked with Swansea City, though club chairman Huw Jenkins said while the club is entertaining investors, any specific names would be “pure speculation.”

  15. European clubs propose later domestic Cup finals, April-May World Cup in 2022

    Oct 30, 2014, 11:15 AM EDT

    Qatar 2022

    The proposed moves would leave only 10 days prep time before the World Cup began, and would also alter the UEFA Champions League schedule.

  16. Zombie Luis Suarez terrifies London (Yes, this video is a Halloween prank)

    Oct 30, 2014, 10:40 AM EDT

    Screen Shot 2014-10-30 at 9.52.50 AM

    What do you think? Mean-spirited to the public or just a decent Candid Camera-style prank?

  17. Emotional Whitecaps react to controversial PK ouster: “It was such a soft call.”

    Oct 30, 2014, 9:51 AM EDT

    Matias Laba, Kendall Waston,  Michel AP

    “I’ve got 30 and 34-year-olds in my locker room in tears because we feel it’s been unfairly taken away from us,” said coach Carl Robinson.

  18. Rumors know no window: Liverpool after Reus, Manchester United wants Draxler

    Oct 30, 2014, 9:02 AM EDT

    FC St. Pauli v Borussia Dortmund - DFB Cup Getty Images

    And it’s claimed that Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger will sign a veteran back from Juventus, bucking his trends of signing attackers and youth.

Featured video

PST Extra: The Manchester derby