Daily KO - 12.6.23
What you need to know

LA Galaxy name Kuntz general manager

The LA Galaxy have appointed Will Kuntz as their general manager, creating a shift in roles for the five-time MLS Cup champions. Greg Vanney will return to his primary role as head coach and will continue to guide the technical vision of the club, including coaching methodology while managing the first team staff and the sports performance department. Kuntz and Vanney will collaborate on all major soccer operations decisions for LA. Kuntz will be responsible for soccer operations from the first team through the academy, including scouting, player acquisitions, salary cap and budgets.

Minnesota United keep McAuley as interim head coach

Sean McAuley will remain as interim head coach for Minnesota United FC heading into the 2024 MLS season. In addition to McAuley, the remaining coaching staff will continue in their roles during 2024. Once newly-appointed chief soccer officer and sporting director Khaled El-Ahmad arrives from English side Barnsley FC in January, he will determine the timing and lead the process of the head coach search. Initially, El-Ahmad was expected to arrive later in 2024.

Seattle Sounders sign Frei to new contract

Seattle Sounders FC have re-signed Stefan Frei. The veteran goalkeeper has inked a two-year deal through the 2025 MLS season. Frei, out of contract after the 2023 campaign, has been Seattle's first-choice goalkeeper for the past decade. His pro career started in 2009 with Toronto FC, and his 33,905 minutes played across 378 regular-season games is the seventh-most in league history.

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This all started in Florida

I wanted to take a moment to breathe the next couple of days before we get back to “analyzing” MLS Cup. We can provide smart, educated and thoughtful guesses all we want about who will influence the game and what tactics may allow them to do so. But, look, in the end, the ball is either going to go in or it isn’t. You can only influence that so much over 90 minutes of a ball bouncing around off people’s feet. So let’s look back instead of forward. How we got here is equally valuable as what might be waiting for us at the end.

Like all good things – Four Loko, EDM, GTA VI – our story starts in Florida. Well, kind of. We won’t dig into the infinite amount of minor events that led to this slightly bigger event. Florida is just a nice starting point. Remember, CF Montréal didn’t have a home for their first few months as CF Montréal. Pandemic restrictions forced them to begin the 2021 season playing in Ft. Lauderdale and other various MLS stadiums. Their manager at the time, Thierry Henry, a famous person, wanted no part of that.

On Feb. 25, 2021, Henry resigned as Montréal’s manager. Two weeks later, longtime Montréal assistant Wilfried Nancy took over as manager with a month to go before the season started. Seven games in, he earned a contract extension through 2022. Montréal put together a solid season that saw them come up just short of the playoffs despite playing away from home for half the season. The next year, Nancy helped guide Montréal to a 65-point season that saw them lead the Eastern Conference in wins and finish three points short of winning the Supporters’ Shield.

Meanwhile, Columbus spent that same year blowing an impossible amount of late leads and missing the playoffs. The Crew's season came to an end on Decision Day when they blew a one-goal lead at Orlando City in a win-or-go-home match for the final spot in the East. Columbus finished two points behind Orlando and Inter Miami despite losing just eight matches all season. In fact, from Matchday 12 on, the Crew only lost three games. They fell to Orlando, Inter Miami and Wilfried Nancy’s CF Montréal. The Crew immediately parted ways with head coach Caleb Porter after Decision Day.

Columbus began searching for a manager and it just so happened Nancy had an open mind when it came to leaving Montréal. He took over a team that lost eight whole games in 2022, the second-lowest total in the league, and, along with club president Tim Bezbatchenko, began tweaking the small things that led to so many blown leads and so many dropped points.

For the most part, it seemed like the problem had been fixed midway through 2023. The Crew were playing well, had a clear style under Nancy and were adding quality pieces to an already excellent roster. Then, on Sept. 16, they took a trip to central Florida. Up 3-1 on Orlando in the 70th minute, Columbus proceeded to allow three late goals in a 4-3 loss.

“We need to be better in the key moments,” Nancy said post-match. “When we look at the goals that we conceded, this is the kind of situation that we have to be better … We need to be better and we need to execute better in the key moments. Again, I respect the fact that Orlando scored four goals, but the way we conceded the four goals, this is poor, this is tough and this is soft. The players, they know that.”

Sometimes you need a loss to jolt you awake. Since that game, the Crew have been on a roll. They’ve won seven of their last 11 games and lost only once. They even picked up a 2-0 win against Orlando City in Orlando. And when they went down 2-0 to FC Cincinnati in the Eastern Conference Final, they finally got to be the team ruining someone else’s day with a late comeback.

The Crew have had somewhere between a solid and excellent roster for a while now. But, for a number of reasons, this year and the last couple of months have been different. Blame Florida.

Other things

2023 adidas MLS College Showcase to feature 44 top college prospects

Major League Soccer has announced the fourth-annual adidas MLS College Showcase will take place from Dec. 6-9 in Phoenix, Arizona ahead of the 2024 MLS SuperDraft presented by adidas on Dec. 19. The 2023 adidas MLS College Showcase, a closed-door scouting event officially sanctioned by the NCAA, will feature 44 top college players, ranging from freshmen to graduate students, participating in training sessions, testing, interviews and match play.

St. Louis CITY sign goalkeeper Olivares

St. Louis CITY SC have signed Christian Olivares from their MLS NEXT Pro team. The 21-year-old goalkeeper arrives from St Louis CITY2 on a deal lasting through the 2025 MLS season with club options for 2026-27.

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Good luck out there. Lead the way.