Former New York City FC boss Patrick Vieira is out of work after getting the axe from Ligue 1 side Nice on Friday, a turn of events that will get a few tongues wagging about a possible return to MLS.
After all, the Frenchman enjoyed a solid pair of years coaching in America and the league currently has four head coaching vacancies. It's enough to beg a couple of questions.
Would he be interested in a return? And does he actually make for a good fit with any of the searching clubs?
That second question is the one we're here trying to answer. As Chris Armas reportedly has the inside track on the D.C. United job, let's look past them to focus on the unmanned reins at Atlanta United, LA Galaxy and Toronto FC (with the caveat regarding the Atlanta opening that a potential frontrunner seems to have emerged in Argentine manager Gabriel Heinze).
The folks in and around all these clubs understand trophy chases quite well, and Vieira's winning pedigree as player and manager probably make him seem a suitable option at the least. This similarity can't tell us much, though. It's in the points of difference that we'll find the answer we seek.
The Five Stripes represent a unique case. While they definitely need some squad patchwork after last winter's turnover didn't pan out as planned, many in Atlanta will hope the old winning ways will click back into place once Josef Martinez is fit enough to lead the line again. As mentioned earlier, the club have also been heavily linked to Heinze in recent days, so they might already have their man.
Should that fall through, though, Vieira is worth pondering as a potential fit. There was more than one thing going wrong for Atlanta United in 2020, but losing a cornerstone like Martinez doesn't just expose flaws. It creates new ones, and the club never recovered from his injury. He's the basis of everything they do, and they dropped a ton of points looking for just one goal in 2020.
Plug that goal monster back into an attack that added classic table-setters Jurgen Damm and Marcelino Moreno late in summer, and Atlanta United may not be so far away from contending again. That makes them a decent fit for Vieira, and his ability to push squad confidence over a hump might help them. All in all, it's a match that could work.
Vieira does have solid experience getting the most out of pricey stars (watching Mario Balotelli flake shouldn't count against anyone). As much as any club, this one succeeds when its big names make headlines. That certainly didn't happen in 2020, but Vieira knows how to funnel chances to an area hound.
The issue here is that being corrected won't fix all that ails the Carson bunch. This team needs a whole new approach, as they never really pulled out of their ways from the thrilling, but ultimately fruitless Zlatan era. They need a defensive makeover and to hit refresh on the culture, both with the first team and with regards to player development. It's a lot to take on.
As such, Greg Vanney the builder looks like the obvious best fit in Carson. That's not to say Vieira is a bad one, but he doesn't feel like the right one.
Alphabetical order strikes again, as we've saved the best for last without even trying. Vieira seems to do his best with teams already built to win. The Reds are very much that, with a roster capable of raising a trophy. And whether they lure Pablo Piatti back or not, they'll also have a DP slot to play with in 2021.
This sort of job has plenty of allure for the Frenchman even before you consider all the comfy similarities to his NYCFC post. Toronto FC are very comfortable booting the ball around, but don't need to have it to win. They like to get the wingbacks involved in the final third, their midfield often controls central park and the strike force is reliably dangerous. When all else fails, they have a hard-working man in the No. 10 shirt who can conjure magic. That could just as easily have been a description of Vieira's Yankee Stadium tenure.
So, yeeeah. Even setting aside how fun it would be to see Vieira battle Thierry Henry at least a few times a year, Toronto looks like the most ideal MLS landing spot for him at this time.