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Tracking MLS Coach of the Year: half a dozen names still in strong contention

Sep 18, 2013, 5:44 PM EDT

Marco Schallibaum

With just five rounds of Major League Soccer play remaining, we might logically conclude that these races would begin sorting themselves out a bit more. The fringe candidates seem to be falling out of the Most Valuable Player sweepstakes, for instance.

Not so with Coach of the Year, where candidates seem to be adding their names to the list of potential candidates rather than tumbling off of it.

Here is a very loose ordering; the names here are widely interchangeable. That is, any of these names could move up quickly, depending on how things develop over the remaining five weeks of play.

1. Montreal’s Marco Schallibaum

The Impact is far from perfect under their first-year Swiss boss – as we all saw in last weeks’ surprising home loss to Columbus. But look how far they have come in less than one year under Schallibaum (pictured). Because while Jesse Marsch certainly did a credible job with last year’s expansion outfit in Canada, L’Impact sure wasn’t challenging for top spot in the East and even Supporters Shield in 2012.

2. Real Salt Lake’s Jason Kreis

Last week’s loss to Seattle was a set-back, but the fact remains that Kreis is getting the job done about a half-dozen youngsters that so many good MLS fans still know little about. Kreis said last week he is surprised at how quickly this group has come along. If they can bounce back at home this week against San Jose, they will remain right in the thick of Supporters Shield pursuit. (And don’t forget, they will be favored in next month’s U.S. Open Cup final.)

3. Colorado’s Oscar Pareja

It’s just so easy to overlook good things happening in markets that receive far, far less attention. And that’s Colorado, of course, the very opposite of a place like Seattle, where everything get so overstated. But how can you not respect how the Rapids, crunched by all those injuries early in 2013, kept such a steady course? Pareja has five top starters who are rookies officially, or just miss being officially designated so through MLS technicalities, and yet the club is third in the West. (And the West is the tougher conference this year.)

4. Portland’s Caleb Porter

His case looked significantly stronger a few weeks ago. Heck, we all might have handed him the doggone thing if we were deciding in June. But we’re not … and the Timbers just haven’t had the same edge over the last two months. Still, it shouldn’t diminish the bang-up job Porter has done, style-wise and results-wise – assuming the men of Stumptown hold things together and make the playoffs, which they should be able to manager.

5. New York’s Mike Petke

The team is brimming with talent, of course, so they should be challenging for top spot in the East. Still, doesn’t Petke deserve to be on the list just for managing Thierry Henry and his Red Bull Arena-sized ego. I mean, didn’t the manager – in his first year as a professional head coach, remember – show us something by benching Henry two weeks back? I mean, talk about guts!

6. Seattle’s Sigi Schmid

Yes, a team with Eddie Johnson and Clint Dempsey up front, plus the league’s standard bearer holding midfielder, should be challenging for MLS hardware. But the Sounders did have questions to answer coming into the season. And this business of incorporating Dempsey, Johnson and Obafemi Martins is no slam dunk. If the Sounders win Supporters Shield (and Schmid’s team has the pole position at the moment) then their veteran manager has to be considered, at least.

(MORE: Tracking MLS Most Valuable Player)

  1. mlsconvert88888 - Sep 18, 2013 at 8:21 PM

    To me this list should just be Shallibaum, Kreis, and Porter.

    It honestly feels like you’re just trying to Troll us with Petke and Schmid. Anybody remember back in June when a good portion of the Sounder fan base was irate with Sigi?

  2. charliej11 - Sep 19, 2013 at 2:21 AM

    Ageed 100%

  3. tylerbetts - Sep 19, 2013 at 9:35 AM

    I think it’s a shame that in MLS and, really, across just about every sport in North America, Coach/Manager of the year is almost entirely decided upon media preseason expectations, and who does the best in surpassing those. Really, truly a shame in my opinion. In that light, I don’t see how Pareja doesn’t take the award home.

    In reality, I think this award should go to Kreis. In a parity-driven, salary cap controlled league, he jettisoned three key components in the off season, and yet if you watch his team as they seriously contend for the Supporters Shield, the US Open Cup, and are one of the best bets to win the MLS Cup, you wouldn’t have any inclination that he had done that much retooling.

    Also, ask yourself this. If you looked around MLS and each team had the opportunity to trade their manager for Kreis, how many would say no? The Galaxy (Probably). Who else?

    • talgrath - Sep 19, 2013 at 2:53 PM

      Staying the course is a lot easier than changing it; and it isn’t like RSL got rid of half the team, they got rid of a handful of players. Kreis is an excellent MLS coach and he has been for the past few years, but this is about coach of the year, not coach of the past few years. The coaches that turned around lousy teams, Schallibaum and Porter, went into a bad situation and fixed it, making their teams do almost a complete 180 degree turn. Montreal went from 7th in the east (the weaker conference, generally speaking) to 1st in the east and a Supporters Shield contender. Portland went from 8th in the west to (at least briefly) being 2nd in the west. Turning around a bad team is hard, but both Porter and Schallibaum have done very well; at this point I’d say Schallibaum probably deserves the nod though.

      • tylerbetts - Sep 19, 2013 at 6:04 PM

        Staying the course? Maybe.

        Staying on top? Much ,much more difficult than getting there. Especially in parity-driven, salary cap leagues. And that’s what Kreis has done. Despite losing key players, despite not being able to be in a city that can attract a big time DP, he’s kept RSL on/near the top. In fact, many a pundit called RSL’s exit from the playoffs last year the end of their era. Sure doesn’t look like it to me.

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