Former Burnley, Bolton and Wigan manager Owen Coyle was named Head Coach of the Houston Dynamo earlier this month. Coyle replaces Dom Kinnear who is the only manager the Major League Soccer outfit has had since relocating from San Jose after the 2005 MLS season.
Long considered one of the friendliest managers to reporters in the Northwest of England, Coyle’s reputation has largely been built out of conducting himself with shrewdness publicly. But his record as a manager is questionable to say the least. He achieved promotion to the Premier League for the 2009-10 season with Burnley but ditched the club for local relegation rivals Bolton in the middle of the January transfer window. Following a difficult relegation with Bolton in the 2011-12 season, Coyle was unable to steady the ship in the Championship and was sacked. During the summer of 2013 he was hired five miles down the road at Wigan who had just been relegated from the Premier League. But Coyle was a disaster with the Lactics and was dismissed before the end of the calendar year.
Coyle has approached his appointment with enthusiasm telling Sky Sports News:
“It’s a strong league. I signed Stuart Holden from Houston Dynamo when I was Bolton manager and I took the team there in 2011 (during pre-season) so I know a lot about the people there.
“For six years in a row I’ve taken my Championship teams to the States to play matches so I’m well aware that there are good players and good teams over there.
“So I go there with my eyes wide open. The infrastructure is fantastic, it’s a brand new stadium and that augurs well for moving forward.”
Coyle will become the latest European manager to try and buck a trend that has seen experienced managers from the Football League flop in the American top flight. The likes of John Carver, Ryan Nelsen, Aaron Winter, Ruud Gullit and Hans Backe all had a difficult time managing in the league. Part of the reason is the peculiar rules of Major League Soccer but also the different levels of professional expectations of American players. Jurgen Klinsmann’s critiques of MLS have long included his feelings about the training regime in the league at most clubs. The reality is many American players are accustomed to a less rigorous training setup than is present in Europe and the managers who come from European football find it hard to relate to the American players.
Englishman Gary Smith won the MLS Cup with Colorado in 2010 but was sacked a year later before returning home to manage Stevenage. Smith was named Head Coach of the Atlanta Silverbacks of the US second division (NASL) earlier this week.
Coyle himself flopped badly at Wigan and toward the end of his Bolton tenure. Having managed three clubs in close geographic proximity to one another in Lancashire, the time for a move appears to have been right. But Major League Soccer’s peculiar rules and Coyle’s adherence to free-flowing soccer probably make this an incredible risk for the Dynamo.
Free-flowing soccer doesn’t work well in MLS. It is a league where defenders and defensive midfielders mark closely and sometimes with excessive physicality bordering on brutality. In my view, this is fine because MLS managers and clubs have become pragmatic enough to realize a premium must be placed on winning over stylish soccer. Coyle however is an adherent to playing with the ball on the ground with some quick passing.
The Dynamo might prove to be pleasing on the eye next season under Coyle but the overall difficulty of a European manager adjusting to MLS for the reasons outlined above, in addition to the manager’s own, style might make this a short-term appointment.
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