Photo by Michael Janosz/ISIphotos.com
By FRANCO PANIZO
The MLS regular season is as tight as ever and many are labeling parity as being the reason why. What is not being discussed nearly as much are the bang-up jobs that several head coaches have done to keep their teams in the thick of things.
From Jason Kreis to Oscar Pareja to Mike Petke, there is no shortage of head coaches who have done tremendous jobs in 2013. Their jobs might not be done yet, not with a month left in a season that is as close as this one, but that does not change just how well they have managed their respective sides this year.
That is also why the MLS Coach of the Year race is equally as tight as the one for the playoffs, as the coach that claims the award could be determined on the success during these final few weeks of the regular season. Who ultimately does so this year might still be uncertain, but what isn’t is that there are a handful of names worthy of consideration.
Here is a closer look at the 2013 MLS Coach of the Year candidates:
It was supposed to be a rebuilding year for Real Salt Lake, but it has been far from that. RSL are currently in the thick of things in the Supporters’ Shield race with a team that lost several key starters in the offseason and boasts plenty of youth, something that speaks volumes to Kreis’ ability to nurture and manage. It is no wonder that New York City FC is keen on trying to lure Kreis away from Salt Lake.
Plenty of questions surrounded Caleb Porter when it was announced that he would be in charge of the Portland Timbers, and the former Akron head coach has answered them emphatically. Porter has the Timbers near the top of the Western Conference with an outside shot at the Supporters’ Shield and they are playing an attractive brand of soccer. It may be Porter’s rookie year at the professional level, but it sure does not look like it.
Not many people gave the Colorado Rapids a chance at the start of the season, but Oscar Pareja has helped lead his young club to the brink of a playoff spot. Further making the case for Pareja is the fact that his team was plagued with injuries at the start of the season, and yet he still managed to get some quality results out of his squad. Colorado will need to reach the postseason for Pareja to continue to receive consideration, but that is not a stretch given how the club has played under the second-year head coach.
Expectations in New York are always high and Mike Petke has more or less met them thus far in his first year as a head coach at any level. Petke currently has the Red Bulls, the team that he is known to have plenty of passion for, in first place in the overall MLS standings and has done so while learning on the job. Things have not always been pretty or easy for Petke on a side filled with big talents and bigger egos (his well-publicized practice argument with team captain Thierry Henry is the biggest example), but it has been effective.
Who do you think should win the MLS Head Coach of the Year award? Think this year’s race will come down to the wire? Is there anyone else you would consider for the award?
Share your thoughts below.