Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Foreign To It All

No, it isn't that hard to coach in MLS. 

How could it possibly be difficult to manage a diverse mix of roster players, fly enormous distances all over the country, get the most from young developmental players in fledgling Academy systems, scout affordable talent in Central and South America, choose the best investments for big-money talent with an eye also toward marketing to local and Latino fans, stay under a salary cap, negotiate with league demands such as unbalanced scheduling and oppressive day games, and also work with media that can alternately ignore the sport entirely or insist on access that is unprecedented in other countries but standard in the U.S.?

Just ask this guy how easy it is to coach in MLS. 

Give Ruud Gullit credit - he came in with plenty of confidence. A bit of humility and willingness to learn might have served him better. Frankly, it's not a conincidence that foreign coaches have a long history of struggling in MLS. It's harder to adapt to new circumstances than it is to blame these same elements themselves as being flawed, but blame won't create success.

With the news that the Houston Dynamo have signed Owen Coyle to replace outgoing coach Dom Kinnear (who returned to California to coach the San Jose Earthquakes) hope springs anew that a different foreigner can buck that trend. Coyle, who has shown a flair for well-balanced squads and who can unearth talent overlooked by many, would do well to heed these words of advice from the coach in MLS with the most wins ever, Bruce Arena.

"It's very rare that an international player can step into this league, be adjusted instantly, and not explain to us how we're supposed to do things - how it's done elsewhere. We've never heard one comment of, 'This is how they do it at Liverpool or Tottenham.' He's bought into Major League Soccer from the start. He's our greatest advocate."

Now, Arena was speaking after the 2014 MLS Cup on the game and league MVP, but it's still good advice that Coyle should heed. 

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