After less than a season and a half in charge, Owen Coyle is out as head coach of the Houston Dynamo.
Houston announced late on Wednesday night that Coyle had expressed a desire to be closer to his family in England and that the club had accommodated his request. The mutual breakup brings an end to an underwhelming tenure that, if we’re being honest, never really seemed like a good fit.
Prior to being hired by the Dynamo in December 2014, the Scottish-born Coyle had never worked outside the British Isles. The most notable years of his coaching career were spent working for clubs teetering between England’s first and second divisions. Apart from the 2008-09 season, when he led Burnley to the Championship title and promotion to the Premier League, success for Coyle was measured mostly by his ability to finish outside the EPL’s bottom three.
Avoiding relegation isn’t exactly a relevant strategy in MLS, and Coyle wasn’t able to replicate any of the early success he had in England in Houston. The Dynamo were just 14-21-11 in Coyle’s 46 MLS matches. They missed the playoffs for just the second time in club history last year, and look like they’ll finish below the red line again in 2016. Houston are 3-7-2 this season, just one point ahead of the last-place Chicago Fire, who they lost at on Saturday.
While they’re already eight points behind former head coach Dom Kinnear’s San Jose Earthquakes for the sixth and final playoff spot in the deep West, the cupboard isn’t bare in Houston. Cubo Torres, Giles Barnes, Will Bruin, Andrew Wenger and Cristian Maidana form a deep attacking corps, and DaMarcus Beasley and Ricardo Clark know how to get it done in MLS.
The Dynamo have some talent, and now they have a shot at a fresh start.
Just who will lead them for the remainder of 2016 and beyond? Here are five potential candidates:
The former Chivas USA head coach was hired by the Dynamo this winter to run their USL affiliate, Rio Grande Valley FC. The Colombian would be a good fit for a Hispanic-heavy team in a very Hispanic city, and he knows the ins and outs of both the league and the US Soccer pyramid.
Perhaps most importantly, Cabrera knows how to get results out of Cubo Torres. The Mexican Under-23 international had the best year of his career under Cabrera, scoring 15 goals in 29 appearances while they two were at Chivas USA in 2014. He’s been incredibly underwhelming since, however, struggling for playing time under Coyle after making a big money move to Houston in 2015. Incredibly, he’s still searching for his first Dynamo goal. Houston simply have to get more out of him, and Cabrera might be the best bet to do that.
Barrett, who interviewed for the Dynamo job after Kinnear's departure, has been in Houston since their inaugural season, making 99 appearances for the club from 2006-2009 before becoming an assistant in 2010. He’ll manage Houston alongside fellow assistants Paul Caffrey and Paul Rogers on Saturday against Vancouver, and would be the most rational choice if Houston doesn’t want to rock the boat too much with their next head coach.
The New York Cosmos manager was in the running for the Dynamo job in 2014, but declined to be interviewed in order to stay in New York. The former MetroStars striker is familiar with Houston president Chris Canetti, who worked in the MetroStars’ front office from 2000-2006. He’s had a good deal of success with the Cosmos, too, leading the club to the NASL Soccer Bowl title in 2013 and 2015. Like the remaining two names on the list, the Dynamo would likely have to wait until next year to hire Savarese, who is currently guiding the Cosmos through the NASL’s spring season.
The longtime MLS midfielder has been an assistant since he retired as a player in 2010, working under Kinnear in Houston for four years before moving with him to San Jose prior to the start of last season. Like Barrett and Savarese, he was in the running for the Houston gig in 2014, and his familiarity with Dynamo ownership, Canetti and the city could make him a candidate for the job once again.
The former Dynamo forward has long-standing ties to the Houston organization, which he helped win MLS Cup in 2006 and 2007 before joining the club’s academy staff as a coach in 2008.
Currently the head coach of the NASL’s Ottawa Fury, Dalglish has spent a good portion of his post-playing career in Texas. He led the Austin Aztex in the PDL in 2012 and 2013, then re-joined the club ahead of their move to USL in 2015 after a short stint as a Real Salt Lake assistant. He left Austin for Ottawa last November after the Aztex announced they’d go on hiatus in 2016 due to difficulties securing a stadium following floods that damaged their previous home last May, but would be a reasonable candidate for the Dynamo job if they’re still looking following the NASL campaign.