22MLS_TheDailyKickoff-Chicharito
What you need to know

Houston Dynamo part ways with head coach Nagamura:

Houston Dynamo FC have parted ways with head coach Paulo Nagamura. Houston, currently last in the Western Conference standings (14th place), will be led by Dynamo 2 head coach Kenny Bundy on an interim basis for the remainder of the 2022 MLS season. Goalkeeper coach Zack Thornton will remain on staff, while assistant coaches Chris Martinez and Jimmy Nielsen have departed as well.

Nagamura joined Houston ahead of the 2022 campaign after leading Sporting Kansas City’s second team. The 39-year-old Brazil native finished with an 8W-16L-5D record in MLS play.

Happy U.S. Open Cup Final eve:

Just a reminder. Orlando City host Sacramento Republic FC Wednesday (8 p.m. ET | ESPN+)for a shot at the US Open Cup title. Winner goes to the 2023 Concacaf Champions League.

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Assorted takes from the weekend that was

A whole lot to get to from the three-day weekend that was. Starting with...

What’s the plan, Houston?

Paulo Nagamura came into the Houston job with a resume that didn’t necessarily match the grand vision the Dynamo front office had for the team. The Dynamo say they want to go from the weakest link in the Texas Triangle to a notable force in MLS. In some ways it’s clear they’re actively working to move toward that. They had a completely passable offseason capped off by a coup to bring in Mexican national team star, Hector Herrera. They’re working on stadium renovations in time for 2023. And, from my sky-high view, seem to be willing to commit to whatever they need to commit to in order to change the momentum of the club for the better.

So when they hired Nagamura, a 39-year-old coach with no experience managing a club’s first team, during a year where the general indication from Houston and the roster they put together seemed to be that 2022 would be a year to build towards something bigger, why does he get less than a year to try and turn things around before getting canned? That’s not so much a critique as it is me genuinely asking. What’s the plan here? 

I’m sure we’ll find out more in the coming days, but I guess it could be as simple as the club admitting they got this hire wrong. That could be from a cultural fit to any number of things behind the scenes. And, to be frank, the team has regressed this season in ways that send up red flags. We’re talking a lot of dropped leads and Wooden Spoon contention for a group that’s at least a little better than that. 

But it still seems odd if it’s based solely on results in year one. 

“I am proud to welcome Paulo Nagamura to the Houston Dynamo Football Club,” Houston majority owner Ted Segal said upon Nagamura’s hiring. “Paulo was known as a fierce competitor during his playing days and that competitiveness has carried over into his coaching career. He is a talented, high-potential coach who we believe will relate well to our players and help instill the type of culture we are working to create.”

If he was a “high-potential” hire who you’re looking to for a long term culture installation, why was the leash so short? Especially on a team that has lacked consistency for so long. 

The good folks at SBNation’s Dynamo Theory pointed out that since Dom Kinnear left in 2014, Houston has been led by four different full-time head coaches and two interim head coaches. In order, they’ve managed 46 games, 22 games (interim), 93 games, 9 games (interim), 57 games and 29 games. It’s hard to establish the kind of culture Houston is looking for and needs when you’re going through head coaches at warp speed. 

Again, I’m not even sure I can call this a criticism yet. We don’t know all the details. Maybe they may have a grand plan in mind that we can’t see. Maybe a big name manager became available and interested and they’re ready to go all in this offseason. There’s a lot of maybes. I can’t help but be curious to see where this goes and why they’ve decided to go there.

When is the correct time to attempt a Panenka?

On the field this weekend, Chicharito’s failed Panenka attempt against Sporting KC earned the most eyeballs. Largely because if he’d just hit the heck out of the ball, the Galaxy would have picked up an important 3-2 comeback win and he’d have his hat trick and we wouldn’t be wondering if the Galaxy are really about to potentially miss the playoffs on an unnecessary gentle kick from an elite athlete who could have, again, just hit the heck out of the ball.

You don’t even need hindsight to understand that Chicharito made the wrong decision. He knows that, he’s owned up to it and as long as LA don’t miss the playoffs by a point or something it won’t matter in the end. But it did get me thinking. When is the correct time to attempt a Panenka?

For those of you that don’t know (or forgot that Wikipedia exists), a Panenka is a penalty kick in which the penalty taker gently lofts the ball to the center of the goal while the goalkeeper, in theory, dives to either side to save a normally taken penalty. It’s named after Czech player Antonín Panenka, who won the Euro 1976 title with it. When it works, it objectively looks very cool. When it doesn’t, it becomes a major talking point for an entire league.

So when do you do it? The technically correct answer is never. Your odds of scoring go down considerably when you try it. But the technically correct answer is, as always, totally lame. We need it every now and then.

I thought about making a flowchart to explain exactly when you should and shouldn’t take one, but I realized it’s all pretty straightforward. The simple consideration (to this and many other questions) is “Will I get meme’d?” That’s it. That’s the whole thing. If the outcome of you missing is the internet jumping all over you, don’t do it. We’re talking critical scenarios where your team desperately needs a goal. If you can miss and know you’re not going to be posted on some account called like “EPIC FOOTY FAILS”, go for it. If Chicharito had just consulted with me beforehand this could have all been avoided.

PK SAVE: John Pulskamp, Sporting Kansas City - 97th minute

Well…now what NYCFC?

We’ve got to move quickly now because I spent too long on Houston and a Panenka bit, but honestly, that was probably a better use of time than talking too much about NYCFC again. All you need to know is that things are quite bad. They’ve dropped six of their last seven and if they weren’t so overwhelmingly talented when healthy, it would be hard to see a way forward. It feels like they’re about to crash and burn out of the playoffs once they get there. And at that point, they’ll have some tough (or maybe not so tough) decisions to make.

Toronto showed just how far they have to go

Federico Bernardeschi and Lorenzo Insigne are very good at scoring goals. But it’s hard for that to really matter when the entire team seems to struggle defensively while also actively looking to score at every available opportunity. The Reds showed off everything that makes them exciting and everything that’s going to keep them from being a playoff team over the course of one half this weekend. They went up 2-0 immediately and couldn’t even keep that lead over the course of the half. They’re an F1 car that’s faster than everyone on the straightaways but slams into the wall on nearly every turn.

Get in while you can on Nashville

The odds of Nashville making an MLS Cup run seemed low a few weeks ago. Now? It kind of seems like they’re putting it all together at the perfect time. For a team that always seemed like it’s set up well to succeed in single-elimination tournaments, picking Nashville to make a run in your bracket might be a high-risk, high-reward move that maybe isn’t quite as high-risk as the first part of the season would have others think. Just something to consider going forward. Did I mention that, after their 3-0 win over Austin this weekend, they’ve outscored their last four opponents 14-1?

I’m still bummed about Colorado

I just feel kind of sad. They could have invested in a team that finished first in the West and really built something. Now the roster is far removed from the group that put up 61 points last year and the Rapids are unofficially out of the playoff race with five games left in the season. It could have been so much more.

Portland are doing that thing again, huh?

Every. Year.

The Timbers are heating up and it seems like, once again, out of (almost) nowhere, they’re going to find a way into the playoffs. We’ve all seen this movie before. It’s just amazing that they keep showing it.

To be fair though, they certainly aren’t safe yet. The last four games of their schedule are brutal and they’ll likely need a little help from the teams around them. Then again, it feels like we all know how this is going to end.

RSL are building towards the season finale

Speaking of endings, RSL are right on the edge of the playoff line as well. In particular, they’re scrapping with LA and Portland for one of the final spots in the West. It’s some convenient writing considering that their last two games of the season come against the Galaxy and Portland. Just something to keep an eye on as we build to the end of the season.

Nouhou scored

Nouhou scored. And for once it felt ok to exist in this world.

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GOAL: Nouhou Tolo, Seattle Sounders - 59th minute

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