MLS Owners Need to Look at USL Coaches

After watching two legs of the FMF final and seeing the tactics on display, it reminded me of what is lacking in MLS. Despite having been in business for 14 years, MLS has not evolved tactically the way it should have: in fact the second tier USL is a more tactical league, which features differing styles of play implemented by qualified foreign managers.

MLS, on the other hand generally has teams playing a similar brand of football (excepting DC United, of course) which is dire to watch at times. Kevin Payne’s recent fine at the hands of Commissioner Don Garber, reinforced to me how defensive MLS’ is about criticizing the product. I have maintained for sometime that USL is a more tactical league than MLS.

For this opinion, I have been ridiculed a hater and worse anti-American soccer. I am not sure how supporting the sport at the grassroots level in second tier markets in our lower leagues makes me anti-American soccer, but again some fans confuse what is good for MLS business wise as what is good for American soccer.

I had a lengthy conversation the other day with a British journalist who has watched both USL and MLS. He conceded the quality of player and level of play is higher in MLS, but that USL features more tactics, more strategy and is in some cases better to watch for the neutral. MLS has relied on turning former players into managers, while USL clubs have in many cases gone out and hired foreign managers who have their coaching badges from UEFA or another governing entity.

Given the continued struggles the US has had with MLS’ players in big international matches (most recently the 2009 Gold Cup Final where an MLS oriented squad lost its shape after the first Mexican goal and then subsequently lost its composure), it would be wise for MLS owners to take a serious look at USL Managers.

Here is a short list of current USL Managers who deserve a look in MLS:

  • Teitur Thordarson (Vancouver)
  • Martin Rennie (Carolina)
  • Adrian Heath (Austin)
  • Gavin Wilkinson (Portland)
  • Graham Smith (Ventura County Fusion)