SAINT PETERSBURG, Russia – The Seattle Sounders are operating under interim boss Brian Schmetzer for the time being, but must eventually make a decision on who will replace the departed Sigi Schmid on a permanent basis.
While there are always suitable American candidates, MLS clubs are increasingly looking overseas for head coaches; we saw this with the hires of Veljko Paunovic in Chicago and Patrick Vieira at New York City FC this offseason. As such, we have compiled a list of foreign candidates that the Sounders would do well to consider as they prepare to name their second full-time coach in franchise history.
On the CV: Won two Football League First Division titles, an FA Cup and a Cup Winners' Cup as a midfielder with Everton, for whom he scored 71 goals in 226 matches. Has managed Burnley, Sheffield United and Orlando City, where he celebrated two USL Pro titles and was twice named USL Coach of the Year.
How he fits: When looking for a new head coach, why not start with someone who understands the league? Heath parted ways with Orlando City earlier this season after eight years leading the team, which relocated from Austin in 2010. He guided them from the lower leagues to MLS, and the Lions took some critical heat for firing a man who is beloved in the Magic City.
Heath, who scored 151 goals as a player, loves to develop talent. As such, placing him with a squad that features four exciting young forwards led by Jordan Morris seems like a no-brainer. He's also big on becoming part of the community and interacting with fans, which obviously would go over very well in the Emerald City.
On the CV: Spent most of his playing career with Sampdoria and Lazio, where the forward won a total of two Serie A titles, six Coppa Italia crowns and a pair of UEFA Cup Winners Cups. He also was named Serie A Footballer of the Year in 1997 and earned 36 Italy caps. Has managed Fiorentina (won one Coppa Italia), Lazio (one Coppa Italia), Inter Milan (three Serie A titles and two Coppa Italias), Manchester City (won an EPL crown and an FA Cup) and Galatasaray (one Turkish Cup).
How he fits: This may seem like a pipe dream, but don't just assume it is so. Not only does Mancini's son Andrea now play for D.C. United, but the 51-year-old had some glowing words about MLS while still in charge at Inter during their American visit this summer. "In the last five years, the league has grown a lot and it will continue to grow," Mancini told reporters earlier this summer. "It's important that good players and coaches will always arrive there."
Could he be one of those good coaches? There's only one way to find out. Although he played as a striker, Mancini prefers 1-0 victories as a coach. And despite their struggles this term, Seattle still own the seventh stingiest defense in the league. The Italian would have plenty to his liking to work with there.
José Manuel de la Torre
On the CV: During his playing career, the attacking midfielder scored 63 goals for Chivas, Oviedo, Puebla, Cruz Azul, Tigres and Necaxa, and earned 28 Mexico caps. Has managed Chivas (won one Mexican Apertura championship), Toluca (two Mexican titles) and Mexico (won the 2011 Gold Cup).
How he fits: As De la Torre likes his teams to control the ball and the game, this may not have seemed a good idea before the Sounders landed Nicolas Lodeiro. Prior to his arrival, they were often too generous in sharing the ball with their opponents and had to chase most of their games. Since the Uruguay playmaker came on board, though, Seattle has dominated the first half of games, posting possession numbers well over 50 percent and outscoring foes 4-1 before intermission.
Of course, Santos Laguna threw a monkey wrench in this idea when they named "Chepo" as their new head coach on Tuesday. Nevertheless, while he likely wants to settle in for a long tenure in Torreon, Liga MX is notorious for rapid coaching turnover. If Seattle are aiming to install a new boss during the winter, he could still be a candidate.
On the CV: Spent his entire playing career as a defender with Universidad de Chile, where he helped the club break a 10-year league title drought in 1979, and earned 28 Chile caps. Among other teams, he has managed LDU Quito (won on Ecuadoran league title), San Lorenzo (one Primera División crown), River Plate (one Primera División crown), Villarreal, Real Madrid, Málaga and Manchester City (one EPL title and two League Cups).
How he fits: While Mancini has praised MLS, Pellegrini has come right out and stated that he is open to coaching in America. The 62-year-old tends to blend his South American roots with European tactics, so the Sounders' worldly roster should be to his liking.
"My teams think more about building than destroying," he once declared. "I don't like those who prioritize destruction through constant man-marking and fouling. It bores me." Who could say no to that? Certainly not Lodeiro, Morris, Clint Dempsey, Nelson Valdez, Andreas Ivanschitz and company.
On the CV: Played as a midfielder for West Ham United, Bournemouth and was a player/coach with the Sounders back in the NASL days. Has managed Bournemouth, West Ham, Portsmouth (won an FA Cup), Southampton, Tottenham and Queens Park Rangers, and was named EPL Manager of the Year in 2010.
How he fits: Redknapp represents the potential homecoming candidate, considering his time with the Sounders back in the 1970s. He's also shown himself to be a fan of MLS; he made noise about browsing the league for loan players while QPR boss a few years back and has publicly encouraged a few English players to make the westward jump across the pond.
The 69-year-old is a player's manager who likes to motivate and instill confidence. He doesn't over-manage tactically, allowing his players to lean on their best skills; this could work well with a very talented Seattle squad. Above all, let's face it: ol' Harry would certainly be an entertaining personality.