Pablo Mastroeni will continue an encouraging trend for former MLS players when he makes his MLS coaching debut Saturday afternoon (4 pm ET, Univision Deportes, MLS LIVE) at Red Bull Arena; his presence in the Colorado Rapids' technical area will make him the 15th MLS coach this season to have played in the league during his playing career.
And now that 79 percent of coaches across MLS an boast playing experience in the very same league, will there come a day when that number becomes 100 percent?
It appears more and more likely with each passing year.
Of the nine new hires since the start of last season, eight of them are former MLSers with only Wilmer Cabrera – who has spent his entire coaching career in the US – as the exception. We also already know that one of the two expansion teams will have a former MLS player as coach with Jason Kreis taking the head job at New York City FC.
For comparison's sake, of the 20 Premier League teams, only eight can boast former English top-flight players as head coaches.
The time series chart below shows the rise of former MLS players as coaches, starting all the way from the beginning of the league until now:
Former MLS players as Head Coaches
How well have these coaches done compared to coaches who did not have MLS playing experience? Since 2001, when former Tampa Bay Mutiny defender Frank Yallop was hired by the San Jose Earthquakes, the two sides have split MLS Cup and Supporters' Shield titles evenly.
|MLS Cup||Supporters' Shield||US Open Cup|
|MLS playing experience||7||6||3|
|No MLS playing experience||6||7||10|
The success of these coaches, in total, has varied all the way from John Spencer to Dominic Kinnear, but there's a huge variety of factors beyond playing experience that determine success and failure.
What cannot be argued is the fact that MLS owners are seeing the value of a coach who understands what these players go through on a day-to-day basis. While there will always be a place for Bruce Arena and Sigi Schmid in MLS as long as they want to coach, it would be no surprise to see them eventually replaced by a player they coached or coached against.
Getting back to Saturday at Red Bull Arena, just how will Mastroeni fare? Well, 21 coaches have been put in the same situation as him in MLS history with their first game as an MLS coach coming in their team’s first game of the season. Their record sits evenly at with eight of them winning, eight losing, and five drawing. We will see if Mastroeni can get them back over .500.