Category Archives: The Manager Hunt

Who should be the manager?

Well, the Open Cup run is over. It seems about the time to run a new poll. It looks to be a two-horse race between Jim and Rene, though Union Rumors is suggesting Rene may have more of an administrative job in the organization.

Why Rene Meulensteen?

 

Once again, the name Rene Meulensteen has resurfaced. Kevin Kinkead, one of the best Union journalists, has reported Rene will be the next manager:

 

Though many fans initially called for an international manager search when Hack was fired, Jim Curtin has obviously done a fantastic job with this team. I’d expect this appointment to split the fanbase. Personally, I am incredibly excited by this move, and I think Rene will be a fantastic addition to this team. That being said, let’s look once again at Rene Meulensteen as a manager candidate and the pros and cons of his potential appointment.

Pros

  • Meulensteen is a big believer in youth development: Rene spent a good amount of time working with the youth teams at Man U. While he is popularly credited with helping to develop Ronaldo*, he still has players like Tom Cleverly and Danny Welbeck under his belt. While the two have been the laughing-stocks of Man U, they are both quality premier league players. In his short stint at Fulham, Rene began the work of replacing the old, complacent players with young prospects. He clearly has a strong belief in incorporating young players.

What does this mean for the Union? We are obviously a team that invested heavily in our youth infrastructure. A great article posted recently by O When the Yanks covered the deep talent we have in our academy. Someone like Sebastian Elney, Darius Madison, Michael Swift, or Mohammad Conde will need to play a role in coming years as Casey is worked out of the starting XI.

A manager with a serious focus on developing youth will be a huge benefit for our team and academy. The fans should no longer have to chant “We want Pfeffer” in order for him to actually play. Hell,  maybe one of these prospects can be our Diego Fagundez, Andy Najar, or Gyasi Zardes. I trust Rene far more than most coaching options to get the best our of our prospects.

* I think contributing Ronaldo to Rene is exaggeration. He obviously played a big hand in his development, but Ronaldo isn’t Ronaldo simply because of Rene.

  • Meulensteen is one of the best technical coaches in the world: Rene emphasizes developing technical skills in his players. He wants to look at the best coaches to replicate what they are doing in their game.  Let’s have Rene explain his views himself:

There are a number of videos online of Rene explaining his youth development strategy and technical development online.

For the Union, this will have an obvious impact with the youth. American players are often derided for being athletes without a soccer brain or without technical ability. The skills Rene emphasizes will offer us a clear advantage in developing talent.

As far as the Union now, I think Danny Cruz and Andrew Wenger would benefit the most. Danny is someone who likes to try the audacious and the bold. Half the time he can produce something brilliant. Half the time he trips over himself or the ball. Rene should be able to tighten up his game and hopefully increase his success rate of his adventurous attacks. Wenger is someone who is big and strong, but he lacks the technique of a typical winger. Anything Rene can offer him should help his game out wide.

  • Meulensteen will be a great mentor for Curtin: In his career, Jim has worked with such illustrious names as Bob Bradley, Preki, Piotr Nowak, and John Hackworth.  Bradley is the only one with much of a resume to his name. If we do hire Rene, Jim gets a seriously talented mind to work under. This is assuming he meant what he said about being back with the Union no matter what. Jim will be able to pick the brain of one of Sir Alex Ferguson’s top assistants. I am critical of Jim not working in the younger players. It’s a trait he picked up from Hack. Hopefully, Jim will pick up some better ideas of youth development and technical training while working with Rene.

Cons

  • What about Curtin?: Early into his interim gig, Jim stated that he will stick with the Union no matter what. I hope this is the case. After his success with this team, teams that need a manager would have to be insane to not give him a ring. He clearly has a bright future in this league. For now, I will take him for his word and assume he stays. That being said, all reports suggest Jim was active in helping Nick with the manager search. By now, there should be an understanding between Rene and Jim of their roles and how they will work together.
  • Meulensteen is unfamiliar with MLS: This is a very fair concern. While some foreign coaches have had success, the majority have shown the inability to adapt to the eccentricities (salary cap, draft, trades, etc.) of this league. A foreign manager needs real support from people who get this league. With Nick and Jim here, I think they will do a fantastic job orienting Rene to the league. Nick has been a part of this league for over a decade and clearly knows the ins and outs of MLS. Jim played his entire career here and now has management experience under his belt. I think Rene will have a smoother transition than most foreign managers.
  • Meulensteen has never had success as a manager: Rene is a career coach who has never had much in the way of success in his managerial gigs. I’ll ignore Anzhi since it was a weird situation where he was fired after two weeks because the owner went broke.

His time at Brondby marked the beginning a decline for the once Danish giants. Considering the team hasn’t won a title since, I am willing to chalk some of the problems up to ownership. You can’t exactly blame him for what’s happening now. Remember, Bill Belichick was a laughing-stock of the NFL after failing in Cleveland. People can learn from their mistakes. His animal story is obviously ridiculous and worrisome, but it happened 8 years ago. Besides, this was a player’s autobiography and likely exaggerated to an extent.

Fulham was an all around weird situation. Previous manager Martin Jol had constructed a really bad, old, overpaid, and lazy team. Tony Pulis maybe the only person alive who could have kept them from being relegated. Rene began the hard job of phasing out the old players for their younger, hungrier counterparts. Rene was fired before he had a chance to get his project off the ground. I’m willing to blame Jol and their owner, Shahid Khan, more than Rene for Fulham’s relegation.

Looking at this history, it seems really unfortunate and unlucky. Brondy was the only experience where he failed due to his own mistakes. I think MLS is a good league for him if he wants a fresh start. This league is much less of an uphill battle compared to signing for a relegation candidate team or taking over for a legendary manager (Michael Laudrup) for a giant of a mid-table league.

 

What do you think? Is Rene the right man for the job, or should we be sticking with Jim? Who is the best man to take this team forward?

 

On Sak’s “short short list”

As most of you know by now, MLS posted an article in which Nick Sakiewicz confirms some of the coaching candidates on his “short short list.” I’ll quickly break down some of this candidates.

Tony Meola/John Harkes

I bunched these guys together because they are very similar in that neither have any real experience. It would be very odd to choose someone with even less experience than Curtin when experience was meant to be a big part of this coaching search. Personally, I think neither guy has much of a shot unless everything falls apart for the Union. These guys are safety picks.

That being said, I would try to convince Meola to sign on as a goalkeeping coach to replace Vartughian. We seriously need more coaches. Maybe Harkes can be convinced to join the coaching staff too?

Jesse Marsch

Anyone who has read my Big Soccer or Reddit posts knows I am adamantly against Jesse Marsch. Why? Like Nowak and Hackworth, Marsch was part of the Bob Bradley national team staff. If we are bringing in an outside guy to get away from the Nowak legacy, why would we bring in someone from the same coaching tree? Having worked with our two ex-coaches, how many new ideas does he really have?

Also, Marsch is your stereotypical American coach. He favors pragmatic, grind-it-out soccer.  People will bringing up his success with Montreal (despite not making the playoffs), but Marsch’s team played very boring, uninspiring soccer. Do we really want to go back to the negativity of Nowak or Hackworth era soccer?

While with Montreal, Jesse Marsch developed a reputation as being stubborn and difficult to work with. He in part left because he wanted full control of the team without the interference of a GM. Allocating full power to the manager has not worked for us in our five years of existence. Why bring on another control freak? If anything, not willing to work with a dedicated GM has to be a deal breaker. I am still holding out hope that we sign a full-time GM.

Finally, there seemed to be a rift between Marsch and the Italians at Montreal. I wouldn’t be surprised if Nesta isn’t the easiest person to work with, but word coming out of Montreal when he was fired suggested the two really didn’t get along. Do we want to bring in someone who could risk alienating big name players we signed? Didn’t Hackworth’s handling of Torres, Kleberson, Adu, and Maidana warn us of the damage a stubborn man with an ego can cause?

I really want nothing to do with Marsch.

Curtin

We all know he is on the list. Of the listed candidates. he is my favorite. Unlike the first two, he has more experience both managing and with this team. Unlike Marsch, Curtin has impressed me with his tactical setup and ability to manage the players.

That being said, Curtin still is rough around the edges. KYW Philly Soccer Show has condemned his unwillingness to play Pedro Ribeiro. I have to agree. So far into his tenure, Curtin’s handling of young players has been really disappointing. Ribeiro, himself, is also the natural candidate to fill the void of Chaco during his injury.

Instead, Curtin has juggled the rest of the lineup and played our normal 11 far too consistently. Keep a close eye on players like Casey and Le Toux to see if this overuse runs them into the ground during this final stretch.

Regardless, I would choose Curtin over the other three any day.

Is this it?

I really don’t think this is the list. Considering we have been linked to three European managers, I think any list without a European candidate is not the complete list. Rene Meulensteen is a name that just hasn’t gone away. He and his wife have been spotted by Twitter and Big Soccer users at the Union’s academy. He strikes me as still in the race, and my personal favorite of all the linked managers.

Why Rene over Curtin? If Rene is hired, Curtin will still be kept on as an assistant. As I said, he is still rough around the edges. Working with Meulensteen should really improve his coaching skills. Rene is a guy who is a technical guru and a huge proponent of youth. All of this would ensure that once Curtin does get the big job, he will be far more capable rather than learning on the job.

 

Tell me, who would you like as the Union manager?

Union Hall Poll: Who should be the next manager?

The three known candidates have been profiled. Who then should be the next manager? Can Rene Meulensteen bring some of Sir Alex’s magic to Philadelphia? Can Owen Coyle rebuild a tattered reputation and return to past success? Is interim manager Jim Curtin the best option to take the Zolos forward?

Hate all three? Explain in the comments who you would hire as the next manager of the Philadelphia Union.

Manager Candidates: Jim Curtin

Whether you like it or not, Jim Curtin is a very real candidate for the position. As the interim, Jim has the opportunity to demonstrate to Sak why he deserves the job. No other manager has that opportunity. So what does Jim have to offer?

Jim Curtin

Best known for: Playing with Chicago and Chivas USA; Coaching with the Union

Experience:

2010-2012: Philadelphia Union Academy (U18 Head Coach)

2012-2014: Philadelphia Union (Assistant Coach)

2014-present: Philadelphia Union (Interim Manager)

 

Pros:

  • Curtin knows this team better than any other candidate.
  • Having played in MLS, he understands the eccentricities of the league better than a foreign manager.
  • Curtin’s U18 side won the 2012 Generation Adidas Cup.
  • He’s a Philly guy. He knows how the fans think and what we want.
  • The team has improved so far under him.

Cons:

  • Hack is a cautionary tale of just promoting an assistant.
  • Curtin does not have any managing experience.
  • He is a Nowak-Hackworth guy. How different is he really from these guys?

Has Jim Curtin earned the job? Is it necessary to hire someone from outside the organization to get rid of the Nowak tree?

Manager Candidiates: Owen Coyle

 

Owen Coyle is an interesting name. To my knowledge, he has yet to be linked through any media sources, but several fans spotted him in the Union’s club box watching a match with Nick Sak. This would suggest that he is another candidate. So who is Owen Coyle?

Owen Coyle

Best known for: His stints at Burnley and Bolton.

Experience:

2003: Falkirk

2005-2007: St. Johnstone

2007-2010: Burnley

2010-2012: Bolton Wanderers

2013: Wigan

Pros

  • Coyle is the type of manager who puts his heart and soul into the team and manages with passion and confidence.
  • A former striker, Coyle likes to attack.
  • He was successful at Scottish First Division side St. Johnstone. Under him, St. Johnstone made it to the semi-finals of the Scottish League Cup and the Scottish Cup, beating Rangers at Ibrox in the former.
  • He had terrific success at Burnley, winning promotion to the Premier League in 2009. Coyle’s side knocked Chelsea and Arsenal out of the League Cup to make it to the quarterfinals. His side lost 4-1 in the first leg before mounting a 3-0 comeback at home to take the game to extra time. A Tottenham goal in the final minutes of extra time knocked Burnley out of the tournament.
  • Coyle took bottom three Bolton to 14th when hired. In 2010-2011, he took Bolton to the semi-finals of the FA Cup and to 14th on the table.
  • Coyle previously had a shining reputation. He turned down a job offer from Celtic and was linked with a move to Liverpool.
  • He signed US National Teamers Stuart Holden and Tim Ream.
  • Offered fantastic support for Fabrice Muamba after his cardiac arrest on the pitch.

Cons:

  • Owen Coyle is a foreign manager. He would face many of the same problems as Meulensteen.
  • Coyle’s past few years have been dreadful. His 2011-2012 Bolton side was relegated from the Premier League. To be fair to him, Bolton was ravished with injuries. Holden received a terrible injury that started the chain of injuries that leads to today. Muamba had a cardiac arrest on the field. Bolton had a very unlucky year. Still, Coyle was unable to stop the freefall.
  • Fired after a few months at Wigan. Anyone who followed Roberto Martinez was going to have a rough time, and he was never fully accepted by the fans. He, also, had to replace a dozen player exits with a dozen new players. On top of this, Wigan was competing in the Europa Cup despite playing in the Championship, adding to the number of games being played. His group of players ended up finishing 5th under a new manager.
  • Coyle was unable to really establish a  clear style in how Wigan played. What I read sounds eerily similar Hack. To play devil’s advocate, he was working with 12 new players and was trying to shift from a possession oriented team into a more direct team. That takes time. You could make the case he was a casualty of an over-eager owner and fans who never gave him a chance.
  • He seems to be in a free fall ever since Bolton got pounded 5-0 by Stoke in the FA Cup. Coyle hasn’t found success since that hammering.

Can Owen Coyle bounce back from this hard fall from grace? Can Coyle transfer his cup success to the US Open Cup?

Manager Candidates: Rene Meulensteen

 

All is quiet on the manager front. The last significant news was that Fabio Cannavaro (Yes, that Fabio Cannavaro) was no longer an option for the Union. As we wait for more news, let’s look in depth at the three known candidates. Let’s start with the most visible name now, Dutchman Rene Meulensteen.

Rene Meulensteen

Best known for: Being an assistant to Alex Ferguson at Manchester United.

Previous experience:

1990-1993: N.E.C. Nijmegen

1993-1999: Qatar U18

1999-2000: Al-Ittihad (Qatar)

2000-2001: Al-Sadd (Qatar)

2001-2006: Manchester United (Coach)

2006-2007: Brøndby

2007-2013: Manchester United (Assistant)

2013 (16 Days): Anzhi Makhachkala

2013-2014: Fulham

Pros:

  • Rene is considered one of the best technical coaches in the world. He played a big part in developing Ronaldo and several of Manchester United’s best players.
  • He was one of Sir Alex’s main assistants. You don’t work with one of the greatest managers of all time for all those years without picking up something.
  • At Fulham, he showed the willingness to push out the older, complacent, and established players for younger prospects.
  • Rene has asserted over and over again the importance of developing youth.

Cons:

  • He has never had much success as a manager. His Brondby tenure was a particularly poor one summed up by his infamous team talk where he asked his players to imagine themselves as animals.
  • Brondby had finished either as the winner or runner up every single year between the 1994-1995 season and the 2005-2006 season. Rene’s tenure marked the beginning of a major dry spell. Brondby has yet to win a title or finish runner up since 2006. Rene complained about deep-rooted organization problems after being fired. While likely an excuse, it is worth noting that he last managed there 7 years ago. It’s hard to blame him for a continued lack of success under different managers.
  • He did not perform very well at Fulham and got fired after a few months. However, he was working with Martin Jol’s players and got fired by an impatient owner. Fulham was still relegated under his successor. It’s hard to read much into this gig.
  • He’s a foreign manager. It has proven difficult in the past for some foreign coaches to adapt to the eccentricities of MLS rules (i.e. salary cap and limited international spots).

Can Rene Meulensteen make the transition to manager? What animals do you think each of the players are?