Tuesday, November 06, 2007

MLS' take on Black Monday

Call it a veritable "Black Monday" in MLS, if you will.

Bruce "this Red Bull stuff is harder than I thought" Arena and Frank "curse that David Beckham" Yallop both handed in their resignation papers to the New York Red Bulls and Los Angeles Galaxy, respectively, on Monday, thus ending the tenures of high-profile MLS managers within the course of 24 hours.

Yallop's resignation was no surprise really, given the heightened expectations in the wake of David Beckham's arrival. A projected playoff club, the Galaxy grossly under performed, due in part to Beckham’s injuries, a porous back line, and a veritable scheduling gauntlet that racked up more frequent flier miles than Barack Obama.

Arena's departure from New York was somewhat surprising, although the former US Men's National Team manager failed live up to the expectations that accompany such a title. While he was able to get the club on roll toward the final weeks of the 2006 season, the club's early departure from the playoffs this season led many to question what direction the Red Bulls were charging into.

Of course, perhaps the most glaring aspect of both resignations is that both New York and LA went out and splurged on high-profile designated player allocation signings during the ’06 offseason. While LA went out and got Becks himself, New York signed not one, but two DPAs (one courtesy of a Chivas USA trade) in Claudio Reyna and Juan Pablo Angel. Even without the celebrity of the DPAs, both Arena and Yallop coached in two the league's biggest markets, and while Yallop will coast back down to San Jose, where he managed from 2001-03, to take the reigns in San Jose, Arena's future is a bit more uncertain.

Perhaps the most telling attribute of these resignations is that the MLS managerial position is coming under greater scrutiny as the stakes in MLS continue to rise. It isn’t enough to just “get by” when you have an iconic player on your side. Nor is it enough to simply make it to the playoffs. Certainly not while the bigwigs are doling out cash for the likes of Beckham, Angel, and Reyna.

Though neither gentleman was “fired”, you imagine both had to have felt enormous pressure from the front office to leave on his own terms rather than getting the ax. The profile of both managers probably lent itself to both being “escorted” out of their positions, rather than being “fired”, as was the case of Dave Sarachan, the former man in charge in Chicago. With two vacancies before the end of the postseason, how long will it be before their successors (Jurgen Klinnsman? Paul Mariner?) are named?

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