Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The End of the Clavijo Era

Well it took less than 24 hours for the Rapids to prove me wrong with my prediction that Clavijo would be here until the end of the year. Clavijo resigned this morning, reportedly to spend more time with his family and dealing with their current medical crisis. I hope everything works out for him and his family.

That said, the rumors leaking out today make it sound like Clavijo was going to be Head Coach In Name Only for the rest of the season. Supposedly player moves had already been taken out of his hands to be handled by Plush and Wright, a rumor today said that Smith would have control of lineups for the rest of the season even if Clavijo was still in charge. It seems that the Rapids didn't want to fire Clavijo, but they wanted him to leave on his own. If that's the case, goal reached, but KSE should have just pulled the trigger themselves.

In an odd coincidence Clavijo leaves after 114 games in charge, the exact name number the man he replace, Tim Hankinson, coached. Their respective lines:

Hankinson: 39-45-30, 1 Western Conference Final, Playoff Qualification 3 of 4 seasons, 2 winning seasons

Clavijo: 40-49-25, 2 Western Conference Finals, Playoff Qualification 2 of 4 seasons, 0 winning seasons

I think its safe to say that based on results, the Rapids took a step back with Clavijo.

Looking to the future, Assistant Coach Gary Smith gets the interim Head Coach tag for the rest of the season. The Rapids plan to ride it out with Smith and then make a full-time hire in the off season. This is who I think the Rapids will look at in order of most likely to least likely, as of right now.

1. Gary Smith - Interim Head Coach
Smith was given the reins for the last third of the season today. Gary Smith came to us from England after being the scout in Spain for Rapids partner club Arsenal FC, currently partly owned by Stan Kroenke owner of the Rapids. GS was brought in by Jeff Plush without input from Fernando Clavijo, so he is Plush's guy through and through. He holds a UEFA "A" coaching license and has experience as the interim coach of Wycombe Wanderers for the final 4 games of the 2004 season, as well as coach of the Watford reserve team for 2 years.

Because of his ties with Jeff Plush and Arsenal, as well as the fact that he was picked to be the interim coach for the rest of the season, I think Gary Smith is the early leader for the full-time job. The play of the team over the next 10 games will go a long way in determining his fate. If he cans how improvement in results and play style then he will make it hard for Plush to choose anyone else. If he can't get the team turned around it may be time to look elsewhere.

2.a. John Murphy - Director of Player Development
Murphy was the expected heir to Clavijo over the last couple of years, but that outlook changed after he and Fernando had some type of falling out and JM was promoted to the Director of Player Development role. John has 9 years of experience in MLS, having joined the Rapids with Fernando Clavijo who he worked for in New England. He also holds a UEFA "A" badge and has been credited with the strong drafts of good young talent that both the Revolution and the rapids had in his time at each club.

Murphy was brought in by Clavijo, not Jeff Plush. He has also been absent for long stretches as he has travelled to Scotland to earn his coaching badges, and he has said that continuing that learning experience is a priority for him. Because of these factors I think he is less likely to be offered the job over Smith. I expect that if Smith is offered the job that John Murphy's role may grow into one of a true Technical Director or he'll get added responsibilities in scouting and the expanded youth teams.

(I'd also love to get one of his Rapids jackets, since we share initials ;) )

2.b. John Spencer - Assistant Coach, Houston Dynamo
Spenny is the fans favorite for the coaching job. One of only two Rapids league MVP candidates (along with Joe Cannon) Spencer was one of the most well-liked Rapids in team history. He played for the Rapids for 3 seasons, leading thee team in goals twice and making the Pepsi Best XI team once. After retiring he has been an assistant coach with Houston for the last 3 years, helping to lead the team to 2 MLS Cups.

Spencer is one of the most loved players in Rapids history, mainly because of his attitude and passion. There's no doubt that a team he leads would leave it all out on the field. Rumors say that he is very interested in returning to Colorado, possibly even passing on the Fire job last year in order to be available for the Rapids position. He would also be a good PR move for KSE, and the only choice likely to sell tickets based on his name only. However KSE already passed on hiring him once, before he joined the Dynamo, and he would probably expect more money than KSE has been paying Clavijo. Because of that I think he ranks with Murphy in the second tier of choices.

4. Paul Mariner - Assistant Head Coach, New England Revolution
Mariner has been the Revolution Assistant Coach for the last 5 seasons, helping to lead the team to 3 straight MLS Cup appearances. He is expected to be the next MLS assistant to make the jump to a head coaching position.

Mariner is a long shot who's mainly on the list because of the feeling he will be a head coach somewhere soon. He has no real ties to Colorado or the Rapids, and its unlikely that he would want to leave the Revs for a organization that is in a bit of a rebuilding mode. Also, like Spencer he would probably expect a higher salary than some other options. If the Rapids don't find their guy in the first three choices though, he would be the next logical candidate.


Jayd8888 said...

How much will a good MLS coach cost? Is RFO willing to spent the right amount?

m wilson said...

The clear choice is Spenny, great PR move and he has spent time with a very successful Houston club. Coaches don't get paid that much in the MLS. Clavijo was making about $200K. Even if Spenny costs more the lift in season ticket sales would off set the expense. It should be an easy business case for KSE.