MLS coaching vacancies update: Montreal make a splash, Chicago start over

Marcelo Gallardo - River Plate

MLS Cup 2019 is in the books, the Expansion Draft is nigh, the winter international transfer window is fast approaching and players begin reporting for preseason camps in about two months. So where do MLS coaching vacancies stand? Here’s a quick update.

Chicago Fire

MLS coaching vacancies update: Montreal make a splash, Chicago start over -

Veljko Paunovic | USA Today Sports Images

After initially expressing faith in Veljko Paunovic after season’s end, the Fire elected to tack in a new direction on Nov. 13, parting ways with the Serbian coach and his entire technical staff after four years in charge.

Paunovic departs with a 41W-58L-37D record over 136 MLS regular-season matches, leading the Men in Red to the postseason in one (2017) of his four campaigns and overseeing runs to the U.S. Open Cup semifinals in 2016 and 2018.

His exit is one change among many for the Fire, who have bid farewell to key starters Bastian Schweinsteiger, Nemanja Nikolic and Dax McCarty in recent weeks in the midst of a dramatic off-field evolution this winter as they relocate from SeatGeek Stadium in Bridgeview, Illinois to Soldier Field, their NFL-proportioned former home on Chicago’s downtown lakefront.

D.C. United

It appears that no vacancy is afoot in the US capital city, where the Washington Post cited three inside sources to report on Nov. 13 that Ben Olsen, United’s longtime head coach and face of the franchise for most of the past 20 years, will remain in his post despite playoff disappointments for two years running.

“We’ve got a lot of faith in [Olsen’s] leadership, and it sends a message to everyone in the organization when we stand by our leadership,” club co-chairman & CEO Jason Levien told the Post last month. “But the results haven’t been there. We have to evaluate this stuff.”

The report noted that Olsen’s current contract has another two years to run. Olsen has a career regular-season record of 111-128-79 in charge of the Black-and-Red, including an interim stint in 2010, and is facing both greater spending and raised expectations since the club’s move into Audi Field.

Inter Miami CF

MLS coaching vacancies update: Montreal make a splash, Chicago start over -

Zinedine Zidane | USA Today Sports Images

Tick tock: The clock is humming loudly over the heads of 2020 MLS expansion debutants Inter Miami, who are hustling on multiple fronts with less then four months to go until they take the field for their inaugural match:

  • Construction is ongoing on their temporary stadium and training facility on the site of the former Lockhart Stadium in Fort Lauderdale
  • The long process of finalizing and progressing on their planned permanent home at Miami Freedom Park near Miami International Airport
  • And they still have yet to name a head coach, despite having eight players and counting on their roster and the Expansion Draft to navigate this week.

The Athletic recently spoke to Inter sporting director Paul McDonough about the situation, laying out some potential candidates, including the previously-reported Santiago Solari, River Plate’s Marcelo Gallardo and even Real Madrid’s Zinedine Zidane. Notably, McDonough stated that there’d be little urgency to appoint a foreign coach in time for the Expansion Draft given that hire’s likely limited knowledge of the player pool involved with it.

Montreal Impact

The Quebecois club made a sudden splash this past week, stunning observers both at home and abroad by unveiling Thierry Henry as their new head coach. One of the most talented players ever to grace MLS, the former New York Red Bull has a far shorter and less glowing managerial resume and returns to North America with plenty to prove.

That said, IMFC’s faith in the striker once globally revered as TH14 appears substantial given the subsequent revelation that he was the only candidate interviewed. His hiring instantly made the Impact the topic du jour across Canadian sports and his arrival in Montreal turned the international arrivals section of the city’s airport into a mini-maelstrom of fans and media on Thursday.

Even the mighty Montreal Canadiens, the de facto kings of the City of Saints, provided Thenry with a warm welcome as he took in some hockey on Saturday night.

New York City FC

MLS coaching vacancies update: Montreal make a splash, Chicago start over -

Giovanni van Bronckhorst | Reuters/Action Images

Dome Torrent made his Cityzens departure official on Nov. 8, leaving the club after a year and a half in charge. The Spaniard’s next move is not yet known, though the international rumor mill quickly cranked up talk of his successor.

The top name mentioned: Dutchman Giovanni van Bronckhorst, a friend and former teammate of NYCFC sporting director Claudio Reyna and the owner of a fairly solid track record at his first and only head coaching gig to date, Eredivisie heavyweights Feyenoord, where he amassed a 107-26-43 record over four seasons in charge.

You can learn much more about Van Bronckhorst here.

Orlando City SC

Like their expansion siblings NYCFC, the Lions remain coachless at present, and with precious little reporting or scuttlebutt emerging about their leading candidates of late.

Club Tijuana boss Oscar Pareja remains the most-mentioned possibility, thanks in no small part to his respected work alongside Orlando EVP of soccer operations Luiz Muzzi at FC Dallas from 2014-18.

Real Salt Lake

MLS coaching vacancies update: Montreal make a splash, Chicago start over -

Jason Kreis | USA Today Sports Images

It’s been similarly quiet along the Wasatch Front, as Real Salt Lake remain in need of both a general manager and permanent head coach.

After word got out that former RSL coach Jason Kreis – currently on the books at Inter Miami as well as the US Under-23 men’s national team – had interviewed for both posts, there’s been little to no public movement around the Utah club. Technically speaking, Freddy Juarez remains RSL’s interim coach.