If you read the business section of any major newspapers you are probably aware that Canada is often lauded as an example for other countries in terms of how it has kept its financial house in order during the last several years of economic turbulence.
In fact, Mark Carney, Governor of the Bank of Canada, was just a year ago named as head of the Global Financial Stability Board in recognition of the fine work he did in helping the Canadian economy outperform its G7 peers during the financial crisis.
Unfortunately, stability appears to be the last word that can be applied when looking at the state of the head coaching profession at Canada’s three Major League Soccer clubs.
Yes, the high pressure and results oriented nature of these positions is such that Sir Alex Ferguson’s very successful 26-year reign at the helm of Manchester United is rare.
That said, it was still hard not to be a little bit unsettled about the Montreal Impact and Jesse Marsch parting ways after just one season together.
Changes at the head coaching position are relatively common in all countries and in all sports, but the very simple and alarming numbers with the Canadian MLS clubs are staggering.
Toronto FC has had seven coaches over the course of their six seasons in MLS. In only two years in the North American top flight, the Vancouver Whitecaps have already racked up a total of three gaffers.
With Marsch’s departure, Montreal is now guaranteed to have had at least two coaches over their first two seasons in MLS. Furthermore, if you look at the Impact franchise as an ongoing entity – taking into consideration their tenure in the second division – Joey Saputo and company are now looking for the team’s fifth head coach since 2008.
Thus, while U.S. retail stores such as Target and Nordstrom are positively chomping at the bit to gain a foothold into the comparatively booming Canadian economic environment, you have to wonder if qualified coaches are now looking at the prospect of coaching an MLS Canadian team with the same rose coloured glasses.
Realistically, it is hard to find a lot of fault with the job that Marsch did in his only year at the helm of the Impact. Yes, the team did not meet its goal of making the playoffs, but it did enjoy the most successful debut season of the three Canadian MLS clubs and they racked up an impressive 42 points as an expansion club. Given the fact that Montreal kicked off 2012 with a completely new team, Marsch did quite well with what he had at his disposal and he showed plenty of promise in his first year as a coach in MLS.
It’s great and admirable to have high expectations as an organization and for an ownership group to be gutted about not making the playoffs. As an Arsenal fan, I’d love it if the current Gunners Board of Directors would show an attitude more in line with Saputo, as least with respect to his desire to win and his lack of willingness to accept mediocrity.
Only time will tell what the future will bring for both the Impact and Marsch. However, you have to wonder if the Impact have possibly given up too soon on a young coach that many tapped as the next Jason Kreis.
Like Marsch, Kreis is an ex-MLS player and a former U.S. International who took over the reins of a MLS club while still in his 30s. Real Salt Lake struggled under Kreis in his first year as coach in 2007, but the Utah-based club was quickly rewarded for staying the course and showing faith in a young coach with promise.
Kreis then led Salt Lake to their first-post season playoff appearance in 2008 and one year later he coached the team to its first MLS Cup championship.
Overall, if you look closely at the franchises that have been successful on the pitch in MLS, a very common thread emerges. The best teams – Los Angeles, Real Salt Lake, Columbus, Houston, Seattle -have not been overly reactive to one season away from the post-season and have consistently stuck by their coaches and retained good ones for years at a time. Furthermore, upper management has moved out of the way of their managers and allowed them to build their squads and institute their team philosophies without interference from non-technical associates.
It doesn’t need to be stated that the MLS teams that have struggled to find success and/or consistency in recent years – Toronto, Chivas USA, Philadelphia, Portland – have turned over coaches often and have suffered from a lack of a cohesive vision at the management and ownership level.
As TFC supporters have watched their club fail to meet their expectations over the years, there has been a lot of talk about the importance of having a stable core group of players upon which a successful team can be built around. That same concept of continuity also has to carry over to the head coaching position.
Montreal supporters can only hope that Marsch’s departure is not a sign that their club is on track to repeat the mistakes made by Canada’s first MLS club.
Regardless of whether the next coach of the Impact is Canadian, American or Italian, it is imperative that Saputo and company get the hiring right and then give the new manager the requisite time and space to do his job effectively and without one hand tied behind his back.
Steve Bottjer is a Toronto-based writer, podcaster and editor for RedNation Online, on online magazine covering all aspects of Canadian soccer. Follow RedNation Online on Twitter.