Is MLS upgrading its coaching talent in Tata Martino's wake?
Background photo: Jurgen Howaldt, CC BY-SA 3.0
Major League Soccer professed its ambition in its infancy. When Don Garber took over as commissioner in 1999, he said he hoped to grow MLS into a division that would rival Europe's elite.
His tactics have been both aggressive and cautious. Signing David Beckham to a $250 million contract that contained a clause promising him an MLS franchise in the city of his choosing after his retirement is about as audacious as you can get. Adhering to a strict salary cap that keeps most players from earning as much as the average fan is just the opposite.
Garber and MLS must endure taunts for being a retirement league whenever they sign a 30-something superstar. They also take stick for being a feeder league, their best young players bolting for UEFA clubs whenever there's any interest. The commissioner refused to alter course, however, and it's beginning to pay off. Not only is the league attracting younger European talents such as Sebastian Giovinco, Josef Martinez and Nemanja Nikolic who offer more value than the costly Wayne Rooneys and Zlatan Ibrahimovices, it's starting to attract top coaches.
Former Barcelona and Argentina manager Gerardo Martino arrived two seasons ago to build Atlanta United from the ground up. In his second campaign, the Five Stripes became MLS champions. Foolishly, the USSF neglected to discuss their vacant manager's position with the Argentine and he is now in charge of CONCACAF rivals Mexico.
United weren't bashful in recruiting a replacement, however, hiring Frank de Boer. In addition to the well-decorated Dutchman, six other new bosses took charge of MLS sides in the offseason. Several have impressive credentials. Here's a quick look at each.