New England Soccer Today

50/50 Friday: Who deserves to win MLS Coach of the Year?

Every Friday, New England Soccer Today will tackle a pressing issue in the world of soccer. Each topic will be argued by a different writer each week, with guest writers periodically appearing to add some flavor to the mix.

This week, our writers argue who should win this year’s Coach of the Year Award. Sean Donahue makes the case for Real Salt Lake’s Jason Kreis, while Brian O’Connell provides his argument for FC Dallas’ Schellas Hyndman.

The case for Jason Kreis:

The argument has been made that since Jason Kreis won the MLS Cup with his team last year, he should not win MLS Coach of the Year this season. While winning two games and a couple of penalty shootouts to claim the Cup is impressive, it doesn’t change the fact that Real Salt Lake went from making the play-offs on a three-way tiebreaker with a sub .500 record last year to the best team in MLS this season.

The turnaround of Salt Lake may have begun toward the end of 2009, but it wasn’t until this season that the club started playing the best soccer in MLS. While Salt Lake fell a win short of the Supporter’s Shield, they had a league best 45 goals and 20 goals against for a stunning +25 goal differential. Los Angeles may have taken the Shield, but Salt Lake was the more dominant team and did it while coming in first in their CONCACAF Champions’ League Group, the same tournament the Galaxy crashed out of in qualification.

New York and Dallas had impressive turnarounds and Hans Backe and Schellas Hyndman deserve a lot of credit, but Salt Lake played some of the most impressive soccer in the history of the league. After a slow start in April, Salt Lake would only lose one more game the rest of the way and unlike New York who were aided by big name designated player signings, Jason Kreis led Salt Lake with just a few minor acquisitions this season.

Kreis also proved this year Salt Lake was one of the deepest teams in MLS. As his team became the first in MLS history to win their CONCACAF Champions’ League Group, Kreis rotated players in MLS play and managed to keep his team’s impressive streak going regardless of who played. Salt Lake may be reigning MLS champions thanks to a miracle run after barely making the playoffs, but it should do nothing to diminish that they were MLS’ best this season under the guidance of Kreis, not only in the league, but in international competition. Kreis built an extremely deep side capable of playing the most attractive soccer in MLS and more importantly, winning. For that, he deserves this year’s MLS Coach of the Year award.

The case for Schellas Hyndman:

To me, Schellas Hyndman is the clear choice for MLS Coach of the Year. When you look at how dire the situation was last year, when FC Dallas spent the first three months of the 2009 season searching for their first win, it’s all the more amazing that a year later, the team went on a 19-game unbeaten streak. And that’s largely due to the work of none other than Hyndman.

All the more impressive is that Dallas, a wonderful collection of experience and youth, has shown remarkable cohesion throughout the season. And it was orchestrated by Hyndman himself. He gave the same Kevin Hartman who was out of a job at the start of the calendar year a chance at starting goalkeeper, and the proven veteran shined between the sticks. He allowed David Ferreira a great amount of liberty on the pitch. He threw youngsters Brek Shea, Eric Alexander, and Zach Loyd to the fire, and then reaped the rewards. It seemed like every move Hyndman made this season was the right one.

Don’t get me wrong: Jason Kreis and Hans Backe are superb coaches. No question. But Kreis’ team won the MLS Cup last year, and Backe had the benefit of an entire front office upheaval when he stepped into the Red Bulls job, not mention deep pockets for international signings. And when you compare the on-field talent each coach had at his disposal, it’s clear that Hyndman got the most out of his group.

Hyndman inherited an underperforming team midway through 2008 and brought them to unprecedented heights. He did it through shrewd, cost-effective signings via the draft, trades, and offering contracts to talented, proven players. There was nothing spectacular about FC Dallas’ rise. Schellas Hyndman simply did it his way. As a result, the Hoops are currently sitting an hour and a half away from advancing to the Western Conference finals.

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