Take a look back at all the legends of Major League Soccer history and think: Which man has either coached or played in the most MLS Cups in league history?
The answer might surprise you.
The reigning title actually belongs to Dave Sarachan, the diminutive, affable associate head coach for the LA Galaxy. Since he came on the scene in 1997, Sarachan has served in some coaching capacity in seven different MLS Cups, five of them with longtime partner in crime, Galaxy boss Bruce Arena.
Sarachan was an assistant under Arena during D.C.’s two berths in 1997 and 1998 and then again under Thomas Rongen in 1999, followed by his only head coaching appearance as the leader of the Chicago Fire in 2003.
Then, when Sarachan re-connected with Arena to save the Galaxy’s sinking ship in 2008, he logged three more: 2009, 2011 and 2012. Overall, he’s 4-3 in MLS Cup appearances.
But with the Galaxy out the playoffs, two men stand on the brink of catching Sarachan atop the mountain. Both Houston Dynamo head coach Dominic Kinnear and assistant Steve Ralston have either played or coached in six MLS Cups each, and if the Dynamo get past Sporting Kansas City on Saturday night, Sarachan will have some company.
Kinnear is on the brink of his fifth appearance as a head coach, second only in league history to Arena’s six combined appearances with D.C. United and the LA Galaxy. Kinnear reached the title game twice as an assistant under Frank Yallop with San Jose in 2001 and 2003, then took the Dynamo to titles in 2006-07, and runner-up shouts in 2011-12. If he reaches MLS Cup this year, he joins Arena and former New England Revolution boss Steve Nicol as the only coaches to lead their teams to three straight title games.
Ralston, meanwhile, has already appeared twice as Kinnear’s headstrong assistant, in 2011-12. Add in the four appearances he made as a player during the Revolution’s glory days (2002 and 2005-07) and you’ve got a man flirting with history.
Some others out there to consider, since we know you’re asking. As we mentioned, Arena has appeared in six MLS Cups (three with DC and another three with LA), all as a head coach. Landon Donovan has played in six (two with San Jose and four with the Galaxy), and Jeff Agoos also appeared in a combined six MLS Cups during his early days with D.C. United and then as Donovan’s teammate in 2001 and 2003 with San Jose.
And Agoos might have a good gripe for seven. He served as the New York Red Bulls’ sporting director when they reached the final in 2008, but we’re not counting the spot in the front office. Players and coaches only here, please.
As for other faces looking to pad their stats this weekend, Dynamo assistant Wade Barrett already has a combined five appearances under his belt as a player and assistant coach, and he’s on the brink of six if the Dynamo win. Rare company, indeeed.
Brian Ching leads the Houston player contingent with four appearances, while Brad Davis has three (Davis missed the 2011 final with an injury, if you want to get technical). A host of Houston players are seeking their third straight appearance, while Ricardo Clark is after just his second, after he missed Houston's finals in 2006 and 2007 with suspensions.
Real Salt Lake goalkeeper Nick Rimando (D.C. United in 2004 and RSL in 2009) and assistant coach C.J. Brown (Chicago in 1998 and 2003) each have two appearances, as do Portland Timbers goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts (LA in 2009 and 2011) and Sporting Kansas City head coach Peter Vermes (Colorado in 1997 and Kansas City in 2000).