MLS managers on the hot seat

The majority of teams in Major League Soccer are halfway through the 2022 season, with the rest a game or two away from halftime. The sample is now large enough to draw firm conclusions across the league’s 28 clubs.

Steve Cherundolo has made LAFC a firm MLS Cup contender again – just imagine how much scarier the black and gold will be when Gareth Bale and Giorgio Chiellini arrive and start playing. On the East Coast, New York City FC is preparing to retain the title in the Bronx after shaking off a hangover from last year’s MLS Cup win.

Then there are the teams at the other end of the spectrum who, even though it’s only July 1, are likely poised to turn the page to 2023. Some of those teams’ managers probably won’t be around long enough to see the start of a new season, while some might not even see the conclusion of this season.

Which of these coaches is spared and who is looking for a new appearance next year? We’ve evaluated managers who have been in their positions for at least a full season (which is why you don’t see someone like Chicago Fire FC’s Ezra Hendrickson on this list), quantified their in-game influence and accountability for their roster’s health, and factored in any additional ones relevant contexts and compiled a list of five names who should be feeling the heat this summer…if they aren’t already.

How do you fire a guy who deserves his own statue in front of his stadium? In all likelihood not. Vermes is a Kansas City icon, directly responsible for four of the club’s seven trophies. If a change needs to be made, it needs to be done carefully and collectively.

Considering his legacy at Sporting, any heat he may be feeling is likely due to the temperature of his morning coffee. There are solid excuses for the state of affairs Vermes has presided over in 2022, none greater than the loss of designated players Alan Pulido and Gadi Kinda to season-ending injuries. In a league with such parities and fine margins, those players whose wages count only a fraction of the cap decide whether their team will have a feast or a famine.

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It’s hard to imagine a manager starting in MLS without two of his three DPs, but whatever, SKC have been poor this year. Very poor. They are third from the bottom in Supporters’ Shield, have the worst goal difference in MLS and the second worst goals for, goals conceded and points per game. Not even Vermes’ adjustments in the game helped as Sporting have the second-worst second-half goal difference in the league at minus 10.

4. Caleb Porter | Columbus Crew | discontinued in 2019

Porter is an adopted Ohioan and led the crew to an MLS Cup win in 2020, not to mention beating Cruz Azul to win the Campeones Cup last season. It would be an almighty fall from grace to see Columbus leave the manager who – along with president and general manager Tim Bezbatchenko – was the face of the club’s rebirth following its purchase by the Haslam family in January 2019.

But it was actually a fall. The Crew’s MLS Cup title defenses ended on last season’s Decision Day, a postseason run in 2021 that Black and Gold passed, and they are on the outside looking towards playoff spots in mid-2022.

One of the league’s most electrifying playmakers, Lucas Zelarayan has missed some time this season with hamstring and knee problems, but that can’t explain this season’s pedestrian play. This isn’t a tight-budget team anymore, either: The Ohio capital club has the tenth-highest payroll in the league, the kind of expenses that should protect a team from the four-game absence of its star player.

3.Robin Fraser | Colorado Rapids | discontinued in 2019

In March, the Rapids Frasers signed a new contract that runs through 2025, so from the perspective of owner Stan Kroenke’s wallet, there probably doesn’t have much appetite to reverse course three months later. However, the reality is that this team has not lived up to expectations this year.

Colorado made the playoffs in each of Fraser’s two full seasons and finished last year’s regular season atop the Western Conference, a success that should have been the foundation upon which it built a contender. Instead, the team has fallen behind and is tied in the final playoff spot and bottom of the conference table.

Is the ex-Chivas USA coach a victim of his own success? Without a doubt. The Rapids ranks 25th on the payroll in the league and only qualified for the MLS Cup playoffs twice in the eight years before Fraser took over the coaching position. He’s stabilized ship and raised expectations, but his side haven’t been as hard to beat as they have been for the past two seasons, and that’s best shown on the road, where Colorado hasn’t won in eight tries.

The only other teams to be without a win away from home in 2022? Charlotte FC, Toronto FC and the San Jose earthquakes.

2. Phil Neville | Inter Miami CF | discontinued in 2021

No one on this list has a worse score per game over their tenure than Neville’s average of 1.11. And for a team with such high ambitions, with the threat of Leonardo Campana and the world-class experience of Gonzalo Higuain, to score the third fewest goals in the league is pretty crushing.

Miami sits 25th out of 28 on second-half goal difference, suggesting Neville struggles to make meaningful adjustments when games don’t go as desired. (Or maybe that herons are just wilting in the heat and humidity of South Florida.)

That Inter have the third-highest payroll in the league, according to the MLS Players Association, only reinforces the perception that this collection of players is underperforming under this manager. However, these statistics can be misleading. As a result of violating the MLS budget and roster regulations in 2020, Miami received a harsh penalty last season that implemented in 2022: a $2.2 million cut in allocation funds, spread over this season and next hampered the club’s ability to build depth in the squad, slot machines behind their highest-paid players.

OK, so it’s been barely a week since Minnesota announced it had signed Heath to a new contract for the 2024 season, but that won’t stop us from making him #1 on our list. This is the former Orlando City SC manager’s sixth season, and in that time the Loons have averaged 1.32 points per game — a pace not good enough to make the Western Conference playoffs since 2012 – including this year’s 1.24 PPG number.

Twenty-two teams in the MLS have better goal difference than Minnesota in the second half of games this season, underscoring Heath’s difficulty adjusting when his Plan A didn’t work or when opponents got used to his tactics. The way his side are playing this season has evolved from one that relies on possession to one that presses high up on the pitch and causes turnovers, but such a strategy needs to be questioned when to field the fourth-oldest roster in the league.

Heath, once credited with developing Dom Dwyer and Cyle Larin in Orlando, had greater difficulty getting production of his No. 9 in the Twin Cities. Abu Danladi, Christian Ramirez, Mason Toye, Darwin Quintero, Angelo Rodriguez, Luis Amarilla, Kei Kamara and Adrien Hunou all came with high expectations but none left a lasting impression. In fact, only twice during Heath’s six-year tenure has a forward scored double-digit goals in Minnesota.

https://www.espn.com/soccer/major-league-soccer/story/4693449/mls-managers-on-the-hot-seat-which-coaches-are-under-pressure-in-2022 MLS managers on the hot seat

Emma Bowman

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