How much do coaches matter in soccer?

Discussion in 'Colorado Rapids' started by Malaga CF fan, Oct 27, 2003.

  1. Malaga CF fan

    Malaga CF fan Member

    Apr 19, 2000
    Fairfax, VA
    Colorado Rapids
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    Hey, seems like a dumb question, but really, compared to other sports, especially the Big 3 (football, baseball, and basketball) where decisions made by coaches can affect the game profoundly (see Grady Little, game 7 ALCS, a move that got him fired today) soccer coaches don't and can't do as much to affect the outcome of games once the kickoff has taken place.

    It seems that quantifying the value of a coach in soccer is a little more difficult. They don't make any moves on the field, other than late substitutions, so really, the only tool to evaluate them with is how they line their guys up each game, after that, it's really the players on the field doing the work. Certainly, we recognize good coaches based on their results (and maybe that's how they really should be evaluated, Hanki's aren't good). Examples that come to mind, guys that have consistently succeeded in MLS would be Bruce Arena (with DC United) and Bob Bradley. Those guys get the job done. Heck, just thinking about how Arena lined up the US Nats against Mexico. He didn't necessarily put the strongest team on paper on the field, but looked at how we best matched up against Mexico. How else did Josh Wolff get on the field, (made the assist on McBride's goal, really the key play that allowed the US to sit back and counterattack the rest of the game)?

    So the question becomes (and I'm kind of piggy backing on the IS IT TIME TO GET RID OF HANKI? THREAD) how much responsibility is on the players and how much is on the coach? Given the Rapids streaky play this year, why? Why 6 losses to start the season? Why win 9 out of 10 in a streak during the regular season? Why end dubiously with no wins in the last 6 games?

    Who gets the blame, or maybe a better question, what percentage of the blame lies with the coach and with the players?

    Fire away, I'm not sure there are any right or wrong answers, just compelling arguments.
  2. bigdush

    bigdush New Member

    Jul 22, 2003
    Parker, CO
    It's the coach's team on all accounts. I'm not saying that the players on the field don't have to perform. But ultimately every decision other than where to kick a ball and run during a game is on the manager's shoulders.

    Typically it comes down to what kind of preparation teams and players have before they step across the white line.
    No good day to day preparation (tactically and technically) = no good results on saturdays.
  3. Jambon

    Jambon Member

    Mar 3, 2000
    Austin, TX
    I asked the same question to my Colombian brother-in-law a few years ago. He looked at me like I was an idiot and said, "The coach is half the team."

    The more soccer I watch, the more convinced I am that he is right.
  4. Malaga CF fan

    Malaga CF fan Member

    Apr 19, 2000
    Fairfax, VA
    Colorado Rapids
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    Good, I like the responses so far. I think it points to the fact that Hanki's tenure has been little more than a failure. Sure, we've had some nice wins and watched some good soccer, but at the end of it all, we don't have anything to show for it. We can't scrap the players, maybe we should huck the coach. And yet (and here's the fan in me) if we win the MLS Cup, all will be forgiven and bring back Hanki next year.

    Look at the Galaxy this year. Sigi Schmidt is gone after this year. Not many doubt it (think the Gals would be interested in Hanki?? If their interested, I've also heard that the Brooklyn Bridge is for sale, cheap...) They are a classic example of a team whose coach has lost it. They won the freaking MLS Cup last year, and they bolstered their lineup. Everybody picked them at the beginning of the season to walk to the HDC and win the MLS Cup. While they still have the playoffs in front of them (they should send the Burn thank you's for sucking so bad that they made the playoffs by default) I doubt we'll see them at the HDC in the final. It's pretty easy to put that one on the coach.

    At the same time, I've seen other examples of great coaches just having really, really poor talent. Luis Aragones is one of the most famous managers in Spain, always seeming to get the most out of the talent he has. Yet, when he managed Oviedo, they were relegated. Even great managers can't overcome poor talent.

    And so there is a balance. The right manager, with the right group of talented players leads to wins, championships and trophies. But there is a synergy thing there, some managers, no matter the talent they have or the success they experienced in the past can't get themselves back to their former level. It's an inexact science, some just practice it better than others.
  5. Mglnbea

    Mglnbea Member

    Jun 26, 2001
    Northern California
    San Jose Earthquakes
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    A Dutch friend of mine told me several years ago about a saying they had over in Holland: "The practices belong to the coach, the game belongs to the players." I always believed that to mean that, during the week, I would work like a dog to get the players ready and prepared for the game with regards to: type of opponent, possible line-ups, tactical situations, general ball work to improve technique, and overall fitness. When game time arrived, I could make written and mental notes about what to work on at practice the following week based on what I saw during the game.
  6. GoRapids

    GoRapids Member

    Sep 1, 1999
    Boulder CO
    Here's some questions to consider? I'd just like to hear thoughts about my thoughts ....

    First off ... do we expect a coach? Or a manager?

    Ray Hudson is a classic manager ... Trask ... his assistant is "teacher". I don't think Hanki is much of a "teacher" either. Not sure anyone really is ... maybe Gansler?

    At the highest level of the game ... you're suppose to put you team out there ... and it's up to them. There is more to it than that obviously ... a manager needs to manage his people and keep morale and confidence up ... he needs to know when to criticise and when to praise. When to punish and when to reward.

    Soccer differs in most sports because of the substitution rules ... this sport more than any of the major 4 sports ... will have unhappy guys because they won't see game play. So a manager's ability to manager personalites is more important than in any other sport ... (btw ... this is where I think Hanki sucks)

    But unlike the other 4 major pro sports ... the manager cannot really make changes once the game starts.

    So what in MLS are we actually looking for?

    Also consider ... KC finished in dead last ... they didn't fire Gansler ... but the next season he won the whole shebang.

    Sigi has consistently had his team in the finals ... won the Cup last season ... has he REALLY lost it? Or has some of his vetern players lost it and thier drive (Cienfuegos, Jones, Victorine, Califf?)

    I have never seen a sport that puts the blame so fully on a coach. Even in hockey ... where coaches tenures are like an average of three years (the least of the big 4). I just don't understand why in MLS ... 6 out of 10 teams have or have had a significant number of supporters wanting thier coaches canned.
  7. Ringer

    Ringer Member

    Aug 7, 1999
    Littleton, CO
    My high school coach always said, "We work hard in practice so the game can be fun."

    There are numerous talents a coach should have, some of them being:

    The ability to scout talent.

    The ability to motivate.

    The ability to improve young talent.

    The ability to develop a system and get the players to buy into it.

    I think we've probably beaten Hankinson's abilities to death. So lets take a look at Dave Sarachan and Bob Bradley and how their seasons have turned out.

    Who would have thought the Fire would turn out as well as they have, given the butchery in the offseason. Wolff, Stoichkov, Nowak, etc... Yet, they seemed to have actually improved. Granted wolff is an injury waiting to happen and Stoichkov and Nowak were at the end of their careers. Sarachan made brilliant player decisions, with a very good solid core put together by Bradley.

    The metrostars at times looked truly dangerous, but they are very young. Bradley has managed to keep Mathis's ego in check, and Guevaro and Clark were revelations. Great strategic pickups. Most of the time watching these guys towards the second half of the season they were playing catchup. Yet they are as good a metrostars franchise right now as they have ever been.

    So the question is, what are these coaches doing right? What is Hankinson not doing? It seems that if the lineup is tinkered with one tiny bit by red cards or injury's the team is just not as good.

  8. greenie

    greenie New Member

    Feb 6, 2000
    Boulder, CO
    Bottom line: coaches are paid to win, and it's their responsibility to find a way to do so.

    Before we go further, it should be noted that it's difficult to impossible to compare MLS coaches to managers of foreign clubs.

    Managers in overseas leagues have very few responsibilities compared to MLS coaches. In the offseason, the task is to add major players to the squad and develop or refine the first team's strategy. When the season is underway, their job is primarily to make weekly squad decisions, and minor strategic adjustments as necessary (usually implemented by swapping a player out of the lineup). Overseas managers tend to simply observe at training, and let their coaches do most of the talking and drilling for them.

    Comparitively, MLS coaches have to do it all. They need to scout EVERY player, from the senior talent to the young pups. They need to run most nearly every aspect of practice, teaching younger players while observing which veterans are adapting and how well. They need to adjust strategy on a frequent basis due to short rosters and lack of player avialability, and they need to do everything on a shoestring budget and a very limited pool of domestic players with the basic skills.

    This I think is one of the biggest reason that managers with overseas experience struggle so much in MLS. In most foreign countries and leagues, from day 1 you're trained to do things an entirely different way than you have to within MLS.

    The only real common thread between these coaches comes on game day. Responsibilities are limited; they need to motivate the troops prior to kickoff and at the halfway break (ecept for Hankinson, who doesn't believe in motivation), and they need to be astutely aware of the best time to swap a player off the field (if at all).

    Ultimately, as in the Dutch example above on game day it comes down to the players. But how well the players are prepared -- physically, mentally, emotionally -- that responsibility falls squarely on the coach.

    So who gets the blame? Well, in short-term situations it should generally be the players. If on occasion the team puts out an emotionless performance or can't put a boot to the ball, then it's a bad game in which the players simply didn't perform.

    But when that happens game after game, week after week (and season after season), focus should be entirely shifted onto the coach -- especially when he is the one who is responsible for assembling the particular team in the first place. This can certainly be excused for a coach trying to build a new team and/or inherting a weak one, as was the case when Hankinson first came on board -- everyone gave him a walk, had faith that he knew what he was doing.

    This is a large reason why a successful playoff run will not be at all indicative of Hankinson's ability as a coach, except in his ability to build a group of individuals that (may be) capable of winning a title. There's little preparation can be done at this point, players cannot be added and the post-season opponents are extremely familiar -- counting the Open Cup, they've played KC five times, and San Jose, LA and Chicago four times each. OK, I'm assuming Chicago makes it to the cup.

    The team knows what to do, and we've seen flashes that they have the ability to do it. Yet for the Rapids to win the Cup they'll need to not only play their best; they'll need to play better than they ever have during this season. The younger players will have to stand on their heads, the experienced players will have to lead by example. And nobody can make a mistake. Teams like San Jose, Chicago and New Jersey have all put out performances this year in which all 11 players put together an excellent 90-minute performance. The Rapids? Not so much.

    However, any team can win on any day, and should the Rapids play with confidence and determination, it'll help carry their shortcomings and inexperience. For the most part, goals in the post-season come only when mistakes are made. Keep the team focused and determined, pressure the other team into a mistake... you win.

    It is because of the fact that emotion and motivation are such big factors that I now look to the playoffs with minimal enthusiasm. Perhaps if Hankinson were a real motivator, perhaps if he would just qualify his statements about this not being part of his job "except for the playoffs," then maybe I'd be excited.

    Yet even if Hankinson were truly convinced of the need to motivate, to inspire... how successful could he be? Imagine Hankinson's locker room compared to those of who have already won titles as players and/or coaches (Bradley, Sarachan, Schmid, Gansler, Yallop) or those who wear their emotions on their sleeves (Hudson, Nicol).

    Boy, now I'm really depressed.
  9. spot

    spot Member+

    Nov 29, 1999
    Colorado Rapids
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    I think that once the coach has set his lineup for a game his job is nearly done. Coaches still have three substitutions they can make, and those substitutions can make a huge difference in the game. They can also make a large difference for the future of the club as well. In addition to subs the coach can point out adjustments that need to be made at half time. So I don't think you can say that a coaches work is done once the game has started.

    Does a manager need to coach or just manage? In a league where players are developed outside a professional system, where staff salaries are limited, and where the pool of talent doesn't create a huge amount of competition, I'd argue a manager must have some coaching abilities as well.

    At this point MLS players are still figuring out what it is to be a professional soccer player. The reports that players make while training abroad invariably always mention how much competition there is and how professional it is. An MLS coach doesn't have enough competition at every position to motivate his players. Consequently, an MLS coach has to find other ways to motivate guys to get better.

Share This Page