Every MLS team is into preseason camp now, hustling and bustling inside of domes to avoid the snowfall outside, or passing and trapping away in happier, sunnier climes.
But it’s not so sunny for all the managers in charge; a bevy of bosses start the year in the weeds, under serious pressure as the league’s 21st season commences.
In a way this makes perfect sense; there are more teams in MLS these days, so more managers feeling the crush is no surprise. Don’t forget, MLS was much smaller potatoes just 10 short years ago, with only 12 clubs operating.
So more coaches standing in hot water as 20 clubs compete is, in some ways, just simple math.
The same math says plenty of coaches are also safe and secure moving into early preseason camps. But conflict is always more interesting to talk and write about; good on the coaches who enter 2016 all “snug as bugs in rugs” and all that, but they just aren’t as engaging of a topic.
So we look with greater interest at Toronto’s Greg Vanney, Seattle’s Sigi Schmid, Real Salt Lake’s Jeff Cassar, D.C. United’s Ben Olsen, Philadelphia’s Jim Curtin, NYCFC’s Patrick Vieira, Colorado’s Pablo Mastroeni, Houston’s Owen Coyle and perhaps Orlando City’s Adrian Heath.
That’s almost half of the MLS managerial herd – quite a gaggle feeling the squeeze of an increasingly competitive league. Heck, even venerable old ranch hand Bruce Arena might find the air getting a little stuffy inside his Carson, Calif., office.
Obviously, pressure arrives in different degrees; not all of these Charlies in Charge will fall in the “job in imminent” danger category. Certainly not Arena; the pressure is a little different there. The Galaxy had three MLS Cup titles in four years before a rickety back line and outright awful goalkeeping corrupted the 2015 bid. So the pressure at the StubHub center feels different. But there’s pressure nonetheless to regain that former, exalted status.
But in the other places, job security really is on the wane. Or worse.
Toronto FC has truly made noise in the offseason with a prudent package of additions. In Drew Moor, Steven Beitashour, Clint Irwin and Will Johnson, TFC has secured precisely what was missing from an up-and-down 2016 season: solid, veteran contributors and leaders to augment that pricey Designated Player trio, Jozy Altidore, Michael Bradley and Sebastian Giovinco. TFC had the prize fighters last year, but the undercard guys were mostly just tomato cans, especially in defense, and they were going nowhere fast without a fortified roster.