MLS players begin to report for preseason this weekend, marking the unofficial start of the 2020 season, and several clubs will kick off under new management. Here’s a rundown of the coaching changes for 2020, including a nod to the two expansion debutants, Inter Miami CF and Nashville SC.
Chicago Fire FC
- In: Raphael Wicky
- Out: Veljko Paunovic
- About: With a new brand, all-new technical staff and an ambitious return to mighty Soldier Field, it’s a new era for Fire FC. After four years in charge, only one of them featuring postseason qualification, Paunovic and his entire staff were dismissed more than a month after the close of a largely disappointing 2019 campaign. It took the club about six weeks to line up Wicky, new sporting director Georg Heitz and technical director Sebastian Pelzer to take the helm, and now they’re racing against the clock to build out a roster that’s a little over half full at the moment.
- In: Tab Ramos
- Out: Wilmer Cabrera/interim Davy Arnaud
- About: With Cabrera fired in August amid an extended Dynamo slump and interim boss Davy Arnaud unable to conjure up a late-season resurrection, La Naranja turned a page this winter as Ramos took up his first pro club coaching job after many years in charge of the US Under-20 national team and U.S. Soccer’s youth programming. An MLS and USMNT legend, Ramos has swung trades for Darwin Quintero and Zarek Valentin and signaled his intention to ramp up the academy production line. (Arnaud remains on staff as an assistant.)
Inter Miami CF
- In: Diego Alonso
- Out: N/A - expansion
- About: It’s been a hectic few months for the Herons, who are constructing their training ground and temporary stadium in Fort Lauderdale and pursuing official confirmation of their proposed permanent home venue at Miami Freedom Park while also building out a front office and inaugural roster. After months of rumors and reports encompassing a variety of big names around the world, Alonso was announced as their first-ever head coach on Dec. 30. Sporting director Paul McDonough has already done plenty of work: Inter already have more than 20 players under contract, though at least a couple of high-profile signings are still expected.
- In: Gary Smith
- Out: N/A - expansion
- About: It’s been slow, steady progress for the less-ballyhooed 2020 newcomers, who months ago elected to keep faith with Smith, the former Colorado Rapids gaffer and incumbent coach of Nashville’s prior incarnation in the USL Championship. He and GM Mike Jacobs are part of a well-rounded brain trust intent on merging a data-driven outlook with more traditional forms of decision-making.
New York City FC
- In: Ronny Deila
- Out: Domenec Torrent
- About: The Cityzens were the last team on this list to complete their managerial search, welcoming Deila just this week despite Torrent making his decision to move on shortly after the close of a record-setting 2019 campaign that ended abruptly in Audi MLS Cup Playoffs disappointment. Depending on your view, that could mean that NYCFC previously cycled through other candidates without resolution – or that the club are simply confident that their squad, already one of the more talented in MLS, is complete enough to handle a plug-and-play situation with their next coach. Kicking off Concacaf Champions League participation in February means that Deila will have limited time to find his feet.
- In: Oscar Pareja
- Out: James O’Connor
- About: A former Lions player, O’Connor engineered some promising improvements over his year and a half in charge of Orlando, but when 2019 ended with exactly the same basement finish as 2018, his time was up. Few were surprised when EVP of soccer operations Luiz Muzzi worked his FC Dallas connections with Pareja to bring the respected Colombian back to MLS after a year with Club Tijuana. The duo aim to end the Lions’ persistent underachievement with a shift towards youth and smarter signings from abroad.
Real Salt Lake
- In: Freddy Juarez
- Out: Mike Petke (contract terminated Aug. 11)
- About: Petke’s somewhat stormy two-year-plus tenure was brought to a close by the fallout from his clash with referees at a Leagues Cup match vs. Tigres UANL, giving Juarez, his assistant and a former RSL academy coach, a chance to make his case on an interim basis down last season’s home stretch. Juarez made the most of it, steering his side to the No. 3 seed in the Western Conference playoff bracket while playing some decent soccer. So in a fashion befitting a Homegrown-driven club, promotion was made from within. Now we’ll find out whether “the team is [still] the star” or if high-caliber reinforcements are needed to maintain momentum in Utah.