With so many MLS head coaching vacancies to fill between now and the start of the 2022 season, it seemed a fitting time to offer up a fresh batch of suggestions for the general managers and technical directors to consider.
Not even counting soon-to-be new kid St. Louis City SC, there are five clubs – Chicago Fire FC, FC Cincinnati, FC Dallas, Real Salt Lake and Vancouver – already busy with hard target searches for a new boss. Being that every single one of those clubs either missed the postseason in 2020 or looks quite set to do so this year, every one of them will be eager to make the right call on their next hire. There’s also Toronto FC, where Javier Perez was named head coach for the remainder of the 2021 MLS season – though beyond that another answer could emerge.
As has become customary, we'll lead you into the list proper with a few honorable mentions: Luchi Gonzalez, Pat Noonan, Carl Robinson, Quique Setien and Dome Torrent.
I've never included anyone who held an MLS head coaching job in one of these managerial suggestion lists before, but this may be a special case. Bradley is out of contract at LAFC at season's end. We've heard precious little about extension talks. There's also no getting around the fact that moves have chipped away at the club's record-setting 2019 squad, and more chipping could be on the way.
Carlos Vela is also set to be a free agent, and has dropped hints about returning to Europe. Meanwhile, big spenders Toronto FC employ Bradley's son Michael and chances seem good they'll be looking for a new boss this winter. Of course, he could also wait for another fresh slate job, which remains available at 2023 expansion outfit St. Louis. Or maybe he’ll make a return to Chicago? There’s a lot of possibilities.
Yeah, it's a big swing, but to be fair Conte brought this mention on himself by declaring he'd like to coach in MLS in the foreseeable future. Would any of these vacancies interest a guy who spent the last 10 years managing Juventus, Italy, Chelsea and Inter Milan? As with Bradley, Toronto FC would probably be the most enticing spot among this group of clubs. His stern management style and 3-5-2 ways would also fit at the BMO, but we'll just have to wait and see how serious the 52-year-old is about hopping the pond at this time.
Okay, so for whatever reason Dutch methods did not take hold in Cincy. Maybe what this blue-collar town really needs is a hard-nosed take-no-prisoners influence on the bench. The scowling Italian would quickly shift the emphasis from ... well... whatever it's been for a few years to a more gritty approach. Gattuso once reportedly had talks concerning the Inter Miami job, so we know he's at least open to a stateside post.
Am I going to straight-up push the Columbus Crew assistant until someone gives him a top job? Like Robin Fraser and Gonzalo Pineda before him, the answer is yes. Hendrickson is a Sigi Schmid/Caleb Porter protegee who won MLS Cup with three different teams, so he understands winning cultures. It could be a hoot if FC Cincinnati tried to poach him away from their rivals, but I actually think it would be most interesting to see what he could do with Real Salt Lake.
It's been nearly a year since the entertaining tactician stepped down at Monterrey, and I'm quite surprised his unemployment has lasted this long. Mohamed, who was reportedly removed from the shortlist for the open Chivas Guadalajara job this week, is said to be looking for an intriguing project at his next post. The chance to work with the Whitecaps’ counter-attacking style might fit that bill.
The Azzurri legend has coached in American before (his first top job was with USL Championship side Miami FC) and at the time made no secret about his desire to manage in MLS one day. Nesta had great success in his first season with Serie B's promotion (they lost the promotion final), but injuries helped make 2020-21 a rough ride for the Canaries. Could their haste in cutting him loose be a boon to a stateside club that sorely needs his defensive expertise? Perhaps Chicago and FC Cincinnati should find out.
This may be another shot in the dark, as the Leicester City assistant has publicly stated a goal to become the first African to manage in the Premier League. Toure is one of the rising stars in the coaching world, so he will probably achieve that goal one day. But will he want an EPL post to be his first head coaching job? Perhaps the 40-year-old will prefer to get his managerial feet wet with a bit less pressure. And like Nesta, his defensive pedigree could really help, well, most of the teams that will be looking for a new leader. Brimstone Cup rivals Chicago and FC Dallas could certainly use him.
Remember what I said about Ezra Hendrickson above? That goes for Wolyniec, as well. He's had interviews but never gets picked and it's kind of weird. The New York Red Bulls II boss has helped develop a string of young standouts and usually tends to win while he's doing it. That sort of description sounds like an ideal FC Dallas applicant. It's a team full of talent that clearly needs a new approach. The Frisco press, anyone?