Three for Thursday: Expansion coaches' debuts
On Wednesday the Montreal Impact announced that longtime MLS player Jesse Marsch will lead the expansion side in its debut season next year. It'll be a few months before the former US assistant will make his head-coaching debut, but it’s not too soon to take a look back at other coaches' recent expansion debuts.
Here’s a refresher on how the coaches of the last three expansion sides performed on their teams' debuts.
John Spencer, Portland Timbers
After spending years as an assistant with the Houston Dynamo, wily Scotsman finally got his chance as an MLS head man when the Portland Timbers came calling in August of 2010. Having spent the tail end of the 2010 season and the ensuing offseason crafting a side composed of USL holdovers, MLS vets and select foreign talent, Spencer and the Timbers made their MLS debut this past March 19.
Facing the reigning MLS Cup champions the Colorado Rapids on the road before a capacity crowd, Spencer’s Timbers came out of the box shaky, giving up three goals in the first 30 minutes of play. Kenny Cooper pulled one back for the visitors late in the game, but it proved too little too late as Portland’s maiden MLS voyage ended in a 3-1 loss.
Teitur Thordarson, Vancouver Whitecaps
When the Vancouver Whitecaps made the move from the minor leagues to MLS, their coach came with them. Having led the club to a USL title in 2008 and a return trip to the final the following year, the Icelandic gaffer was on good footing with the club, and in August of 2010 it was announced he would continue with the team as it entered MLS.
As far as debuts go, you couldn’t have asked for more than the show than the ‘Caps gave the raucous Empire Field crowd on March 19. Facing off against Canadian rivals Toronto FC, Thordarson’s men blasted the Reds 4-2 on the back of a two-goal performance by French newcomer Eric Hassli.
"We couldn't have asked for a better start to our life in MLS," Thordarson said after the season opener. "We scored four goals and created a lot of chances. We could have possibly scored some more goals, but to win 4-2 in our very first MLS game is a dream come true.
Peter Nowak, Philadelphia Union
While Thordarson’s debut was a dream start, the Philadelphia Union’s 2010 debut was something akin to a nightmare.
Traveling across the country to take on the Sounders in the cauldron of Seattle's home is never an easy task; doing it in front of a national TV audience with a freshly assembled team in its MLS debut only makes it worse.
Buoyed by a braying crowd of supporters, Seattle came out aggressive, taking advantage of the inexperienced side’s defensive weaknesses. Brad Evans put Seattle up early with a 12th-minute goal. Although down, the Union were not out. However, that changed after the one-two punch of the ejection of rookie defender Tony Stahl and a goal by Seattle’s Fredy Montero just before the half. Seattle won the match, 2-0.