Thursday, October 30, 2008

Who's In Charge Here?!?!

Obviously the biggest decision the Rapids have in this offseason is who's going to run the team. Clavijo left the cupboard pretty bare and while the team picked up under Smith there's still a lot of work to be done to turn the Rapids into contenders. No new names have surfaced since the last time we reviewed the candidates, so its still the same group of 4 that are likely to get the job.

1. Gary Smith - Interim Head Coach

Smith was given the reins for the last third of the season and led the team to a 4-2-4 record(5-2-4 if you count the last game of the Clavijo era that he managed). The team showed more skill under his control, but his tactical decisions were somewhat lacking. There were also questions about his decision to change goalkeepers, and his complete non-use of Christian Gomez.

The team looked better under Smith, but to be honest just about anyone could have gotten the team looking better once Clavijo left. There's a number of the players who have said that they think he's the right choice, but again, how much of that is just "He's not Clavijo"? His decisions to bench Gomez and to go with Burpo over Bouna are inexcusable in my opinion. He also seems to favor defending 1 goal leads instead of trying to break the back of the opponents by scoring more. I think those tactics cost us the playoffs as in our last 3 home games we only got 2 points, and they were both on 1 goal leads we allowed to end in 1-1 draws. When you only miss the playoffs by 1 point those results hurt.

I think Smith is by far the most likely person to get the job. He's been with the team a year, he's Plush's hire originally, and he's be cheap compared to the other options. I don't think he's the man for the job though. He may be able to get better results just by being "not Clavijo" but I don;t think you'll see a Rapids organization that's any better run under his care.

3. John Spencer - Assistant Coach, Houston Dynamo

In my opinion Spencer is the only other realistic choice for the Rapids. Her has once again helped coach the Dynamo to another top finish in the West and probably another MLS Cup appearance. He's gotten 3 years of study under one of the best MLS coaches in league history, Dominic Kinnear, and is reported to be ready to take control of a team of his own. Reportedly one of the reasons he turned down the Fire job was because he was interested in the Rapids job.

The problems with Spencer are going to be money and control. Another factor in passing on the Fire job was reported to be the money they offered. We know that KSE isn't willing to spend big money on a coach, so getting Spencer to fit into the budget. The flip-side is that a name like Spencer would probably sell a few more season tickets than Smith, so there may be some wiggle room. The otehr problem is how much control the FO likes to exert on player decisions. Under Clavijo we heard rumors of Plush making the calls on trades, Plush hired Smith without Clavijo's input, etc. Is Spencer going to want to step into that kind of role? Another drawback is that with Houston in the playoffs he won't be free to talk to the Rapids until after they're eliminated. With Plush wanting to put a coach in place before the expansion draft the week after MLS Cup the rapids may not be able to wait.

4. John Murphy - Director of Player Development

Muphy's a long shot at this point. While he knows the organization and the league, he was brought in by Clavijo, not by Plush. He seems to be happy in his role as Director of Player Development, which allows him more freedom to continue his progress towards his UEFA Coaching Badge. I think its more likely that Murphy moves up into the Technical Director role that Plush wants to hire than the head coaching role. Still if Smith doesn't want the job and they pass on Spencer, Murphy is the next logical choice.

6. Paul Mariner - Assistant Head Coach, New England Revolution

Mariner is really only on this list because, along with Spencer, he's the next assistant expected to step up to a head coaching job somewhere in the league. Coming out of a successful organization like the Revs, where the coaching staff is allowed free reign within the budget to make decisions there's not a lot of incentive to move into the mess in the Rapids FO. Maybe if the Rapids get desperate and Mariner isn't approached about any other job this offseason he might end up here, but I highly doubt it.

At this point I figure the odds are 75% on Smith, 22.5% on Spencer, and 2.5% on anyone else. Plush wants to make a decision soon, which really makes me thing its likely to be Smith. While not a horrible choice, I think the Rapids can do better.

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