David Moyes sacking from Real Sociedad creates a unique opportunity for several Major League Soccer (MLS) clubs to bring in a high level manager from abroad, one who understands the American game and player more than most. The former Everton boss has spent more time in the United States and around American players than just about any other European-based manager.
While Moyes would be a good hire for just about any club in England or his native Scotland, he’s proven all he can in the United Kingdom. Unless he relishes a relegation fight with a Sunderland-like club or the media scrutiny that would come should he return to a more-aspirational English club, his best bet might be coming over to the United States, a nation which he has developed a unique understand of from a soccer standpoint.
Moyes interest in American players began when he managed Preston North End in the second tier of English football. He attracted Eddie Lewis and Brian McBride to the club. Lewis was bought permanently from Fulham while McBride was brought in on loan from MLS. After Moyes moved to Everton, he again arranged a loan deal for McBride, but finances did not allow him to sign the striker, who eventually moved to Fulham on a permanent basis.
Moyes twice brought in Landon Donovan on loan to Everton and managed Tim Howard for seven seasons. He also brought his team to the United States often for preseason training, playing in friendly matches against MLS and United Soccer League teams on several occasions. In those matches, Moyes was able to experiment with tactics and evaluate players. Coming home from the United States, often times Everton would start Premier League season’s slowly but get stronger as time wore on, showing tactical discipline and incredible levels of fitness that was honed in the hot American summer sun.
The budgetary limitations on Moyes at Everton forced him to develop an extensive scouting network in the Americas. Through this network, Moyes brought several players from Latin America, the types of which MLS now targets in this age of increased league budgets. FC Dallas, who advanced to the MLS conference finals last night, is a clear example of how you can build a club by eschewing big name European-based designated players and mix homegrown talent with superior scouting in Latin America. Moyes also brought two American players in the late 2000’s from USL’s Premier Development League division to Everton, though neither stuck long-term with the club. But Moyes had the willingness to scout lower division US games and implement the infrastructure, including a unique partnership between Everton and Sports Interactive (the maker of Football Manager) to find data on players in more obscure leagues, including USL.
Throughout much of his Everton tenure, Moyes relied on goalkeeper coach Chris Woods, a former England International who played in MLS during the 1990s and assisted the US men’s national team in recent years. Woods could assist Moyes in any role in MLS, or if Sunil Gulati were brave enough, in charge of the United States.
As Major League Soccer improves and the exposure of American players to the world game grows, the level of coaching needs to improve as well. But MLS has consistently recycled former players in the league as managers, owing to the knowledge of the American player and of the league’s peculiar rules.
Those points are certainly valid – most foreign managers with no previous US experience that have to come MLS has bombed badly. But Moyes is a unique case and an exceptional manager. The results Moyes compiled over 11 seasons at Everton speak for themselves, as does his far greater understanding of the US soccer landscape than any other European-based manager.
The former Everton boss owns a home in Naples, Fla., and has often been spotted during the summers on American soil even before the preseason for European clubs begins. As MLS gets more serious about its international profile and growing the respect the league has abroad, Moyes would be a home run hire for some club in the league.
Very few Managers have the knowledge of the American scene, the tactical savvy and the high-level European club experience to manage in Major League Soccer. In fact, the list might be down to just one manager, and that is David Moyes, who now finds himself available on the job market.
With MLS’s offseason just beginning for so many clubs, this would be the time to pull trigger. Which clubs will have the courage to make such a move and reap the potential rewards for years to come? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.