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Charles Cuttone


June 11, 2014
What the Union need in a new coach

By Charles Cuttone
Executive Editor

For the second time in little more than two years, the Philadelphia Union have an interim coach, the third coach in the team's five-year history.

John Hackworth, who was fired on Tuesday, lasted almost exactly two years as the Union's coach, that after taking over from Peter Nowak on an interim basis.

Both times, the Union thought they had the guy to guide them to MLS glory.

When Nowak was hired, Union CEO Nick Sakiewicz said this: “Given Peter’s really extensive experience, not just domestically in MLS as a player and a coach but also internationally in the Bundesliga and a lot of the academies around the world, it’s kind of the perfect package for us. To launch from a standing start, with a guy like Peter, I think we’ve cut two or three years off our timeline.”

And then, when Hackworth was given the job on a permanent basis:
“John deserves to become our permanent Team Manager,” said CEO and Operating Partner Nick Sakiewicz . "His skilled leadership has reinvigorated our players in recent months and there are some very promising signs that we are moving towards a style of soccer that is in keeping with our respected Union brand.”

So now, according to a statement by Sakiewicz "Today we will begin a serious global search for a team manager who will help guide us to our goal of competing to win the MLS Cup."

While the Union scours the globe, fans shouldn't expect to see Jose Mourinho, Sir Alex Ferguson or even David Moyes patrolling the sidelines at PPL Park.

Better Sakiewicz should save the frequent flyer miles and scour MLS lineups. After all, that's where most of the league's successful and up-and-coming coaches have come from.

The two exceptions are old line former college coaches Bruce Arena and Sigi Schmid, who have won three out the last six MLS Cups (Arena in 2011 & 2012 and Schmid in 2008).

Otherwise, the coaches whose teams lifted the trophy have been Dominic Kinnear (twice with Houston after an MLS playing career in Colorado, San Jose and Tampa Bay), Peter Vermes, whose team won last year, and Jason Kreis, who won in 2009 with RSL. There is an exception, when Englishman Gary Smith led the Colorado Rapids to the title in 2010.

Other MLS players also have been able to step off the playing field and into the coach’s job very smoothly. Look at some of the other examples:

Mike Petke took over the New York Red Bulls last season and led them to their first-ever piece of hardware, the Supporters Shield.

Ben Olsen’s DC United had a horrible regular season last year, but won the U.S. Open Cup, and as of right now sit atop the MLS East standings. Jay Heaps took over the New England Revolution in 2012 and last year led them back into the playoffs after a three-year absence, and he now has one of MLS' hot young exciting teams.

So, the Union can look to Europe, South America and Timbuktu. Chances are if they are to find a winning coach, he's in MLS. Something else the Union needs to do, is hire the coach to coach. Not be Team Manager and have the responsibility for signing players. That responsibility needs to be with a Sporting Director or General Manager, not the coach. Few do both well.

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