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The top international stars turned MLS coaches

Jaap Stam had a sterling playing career, most notably for Manchester United where he captured three Premier League titles, an FA Cup and the club’s first Champions League crown in 31 years.

The new FC Cincinnati coach is the latest world star to make the transition to MLS coach. There’s a long history of notable standouts who stepped on the sidelines in the league. We went with a top 10, but first a few honorable mentions who didn’t quite make that cut.

Former New England Revolution coach Brad Friedel had a long playing career in England, including 290 appearances with Blackburn Rovers, and with the US men’s national team. Steve Morrow, who coached FC Dallas from 2006-08 after playing for the team, broke in with Arsenal in 1988 and scored the League Cup winner against John Harkes’ Sheffield Wednesday in the 1992-93 season.

Before coaching D.C. United and the Philadelphia Union, Peter Nowak competed in the Bundesliga for Dynamo Dresden and 1860 Munich and represented Poland 24 times. Robert Warzycha, who coached Columbus Crew SC, also played for Poland as well as Everton in the Premier League and new Chicago Fire coach Raphael Wicky played for Switzerland in the 2006 World Cup and played for Werder Bremen, Atletico Madrid and Hamburger SV in his playing career.

No. 10: Steve Nicol

Steve Nicol posted a career record of 112-108-81 and led the Revs to the 2007 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, the club's first major trophy | USA Today Sports Images

A Scottish international, Nicol’s trophy case is packed with five Football League First Division titles, three FA Cup winners medals and the 1984 European Cup as part of his 14 years playing with Liverpool. Nicol, who also represented Scotland at the 1986 World Cup, had a decorated 10-year career coaching the New England Revolution. During his tenure, the Revs regularly reaching the Conference Championship and making MLS Cup in 2002, 2005, 2006 and 2007.

No. 9: Aron Winter

As a midfielder, Winter was capped 84 times for the Netherlands, winning the 1988 European Football Championship and scoring against Brazil in the 1994 FIFA World Cup. He won five titles in a long career with Ajax. Winter also captured the UEFA Cup in 1998 with Inter Milan. He led Toronto FC to a third consecutive Canadian Championship crown in 2011.

No. 8: Guillermo Barros Schelotto

Guillermo Barros Schelotto was named LA Galaxy coach on Jan. 2, 2019 | USA Today Sports Images

The Argentine playmaker won 17 titles in 16 seasons in the Argentine Primera Division with Gimnasia La Plata and Boca Juniors before guiding the Crew to their first MLS Cup title in 2008, assisting on all three goals in a 3-1 win over the New York Red Bulls. He won two more league titles as Boca coach before becoming the LA Galaxy coach Jan. 2, 2019.

No. 7: Wanter Zenga

The legendary Azzurri and Inter Milan goalkeeper was a three-time winner of the IFFHS World’s Best Goalkeeper Award and twice hoisted the UEFA Cup for Inter. He backstopped Italy to a third place finish at the 1990 FIFA World Cup and finished a storied playing career with the Revs, as a player-manager in 1999.

No. 6: Frank de Boer

Frank de Boer has already won two titles as Atlanta United coach | USA Today Sports Images

One of the biggest names in Dutch football, the standout defender came up through the Ajax youth ranks and captured 13 titles for the senior team, including the UEFA Champions League. He moved to Barcelona in 1999 and captured the La Liga title that year. He’s also been capped 112 times for the Netherlands, playing in the 1994 and 1998 FIFA World Cups as well as three European Championships. De Boer won four more Eredivisie titles as Ajax coach and already has two titles — the Campeones Cup and the U.S. Open Cup — as current Atlanta United manager.

No. 5: Matias Almeyda

Matias Almeyda is in his second year as San Jose Earthquakes coach | USA Today Sports Images

Before he was known for his since-shaven luscious locks, Almeyda was a hard-nosed defensive midfielder at River Plate, where he won three league titles and one Copa Libertadores crown. He also won five more championships with Lazio, including the UEFA Super Cup in 1999. Almeyda was capped 40 times for Argentina, competing in the 1998 and 2002 FIFA World Cups. He’s perhaps more decorated as a manager, winning seven titles including the 2018 Concacaf Champions League with Chivas Guadalajara before his move to the San Jose Earthquakes on Oct. 8, 2018.

No. 4: Ruud Gullit

Another Dutch legend, Gullit captained the victorious Netherlands squad at the Euros in 1998 and was part of the squad at the 1990 World Cup and 1992 Euros. Among his 15 titles in his club career, nine came with AC Milan. He was also named the Ballon d’Or winner in 1987. He went on to coach Newcastle United and Feyenoord before a short stint as LA Galaxy manager in 2007.

No. 3: Jaap Stam

Continuing the Dutch influence trend, Stam was named FC Cincinnati coach Thursday. A bruising center back during a 15-year playing career, Stam was named Dutch Footballer of the Year in 1997 and captured back-to-back UEFA Club Best Defender of the Year awards in 1998-99 and 1999-2000. In addition to his exploits for Sir Alex Ferguson in Manchester, Stam won five titles with PSV and three more with Ajax, while also lifting two more trophies in Italy for Lazio and Milan. As a manager, Stam led Reading to the English Championship playoffs in his first season and also coached Feyenoord.

No. 2: Patrick Vieira

Patrick Vieira led NYCFC to consecutive MLS Cup Playoff appearances | USA Today Sports Images

One of the greatest midfielders to ever step on the field, Vieira played for some of the biggest clubs in the world, including a legendary career under Arsene Wenger at Arsenal, where he won three FA Cups, three league titles and was part of the club’s remarkable undefeated season in 2003-04. At Inter Milan, Vieira won four more league titles and lifted another FA Cup at Manchester City. He was capped 107 times for France, winning the 1998 FIFA Word Cup and 2000 European Championship. As NYCFC manager, Vieira is credited with helping the club climb the league ladder under his two-and-a-half years of leadership.

No. 1: Thierry Henry

If Vieira was the heartbeat of those legendary Les Bleus and Arsenal teams, Henry was the silky scoring force. He scored 284 goal during a club career that spanned nearly 20 years and another 51 goals in 123 appearances for France. Among his numerous honors, Henry was part of Barcelona’s historic treble-winning side in 2009 and finished Ballon d’Or runner up in 2003. Henry made the move to the New York Red Bulls in 2010, scoring 51 goals en route to being named MLS Best XI three times and was a four-time MLS All-Star. He also guided the club to the 2013 Supporters’ Shield title, their first major championship. Henry, who was the head coach at Monaco, was named Montreal Impact coach Nov. 14, 2019.


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