Sunday, June 14, 2015

Time For A Change

It is time for a change in coaching in Commerce City.  Pablo isn't getting the job done.  Some numbers for you:

  • MLS-tying winless streak (18 games)
  • Worst single season run of form in league history (2 pts in 14 games)
  • 2nd worst run of form in 28 games (2 wins)
  • League-record worst home winless streak (11 games)
  • Worst loss in team history, third worst in league history (6-0 @LA)
  • Worst Rocky Mountain Cup loss in series history (5-1 @FSL)
  • Worst scoreless streak in team history, third worst in league history (601 minutes)
That's just the "highlights" of course, there are may other numbers that could be mined out.  In the end though it comes down to this, 2 wins in 28 games.  That's just unacceptable.  So the Rapids have essentially 4 outcomes with a coaching change.
  1. Keep Pablo, Pablo figures it out, team significantly improves, Pablo has the job in 2016
  2. Keep Pablo, the play continues at the current level, team needs to make a change in the offseason
  3. Remove Pablo, team significantly improves under interim coach, team has a leader in the clubhouse for the offseason coaching search
  4. Remove Pablo, the play continues at the current level under interim coach, team has already removed one candidate for the offseason coaching search
So in 3 of the 4 scenarios the team is going to be doing an offseason coaching search.  The only scenario where they won't is the one all fans hope will happen but the track record so far deems most unlikely IMO, Pablo greatly improves over the next 20 games from his results from his first 48 games as coach.

Thus the reason I believe a change needs to be made.  There is no evidence that Pablo is going to get significantly better results the rest of the way.  It would be different if the team was showing a noticeable improvement in comparison to the rest of the league, but they're not.  While the 14 points is the first 14 games of this season is an improvement from the 2 in 14 to end last season its not good enough compared to the rest of the league.  As detailed before the team is already in a hole and 1 pt/game just makes it deeper.  We now need to play at 1.6 pts/game the rest of the way to even think about a playoff spot.  Its not like the team is showing that's likely.  The last four games have been a 1-0 win at home to Vancouver (a good result), a poor loss in Seattle, a horrible loss at home to Portland, and a huge missed opportunity draw in Sandy with FSL.  This is not the direction of a team about to turn things around, this is the direction of a team that's likely to stay in mired in the same results.

Based on that there's little risk in my mind in making a change.  We can't get significantly worse and maybe a new coach can make us significantly better.  Even if that coach does not make us better we at least find out if that interim coach should be a candidate for the position in 2016.  From a PR perspective it also shows that the management cares about the results and are trying to solve the problem where right now the silence on that front is deafening.

Now you'll notice I've talked about "making a change" and "removing Pablo".  I have intentionally not used the term "firing" the coach.  Pablo isn't any coach when it comes to the Rapids.  He is, by far (sorry 'Celo), the best player to ever wear the shirt and the first one to lead us to a MLS Cup.  You can't just call him into Bravo's/Hinchey's office and tell him to clear out.  He deserves more than that.

There's also the fact that this is a KSE team and, well, KSE is cheap.  They aren't going to want to pay for a second head coach (see the Fernando Clavijo debacle) for the rest of 2015 and possibly 2016, depending on Pablo's contract.  So that has to be taken into account when designing a plan.

So here's my proposal.  Give Pablo  a new role in the youth academy.  With Brian Crookham being involved with the Charlotte Independence there's probably room for anther "Director of Soccer Development" or something similar that Pablo can move into to.  Before his retirement Pablo had talked about wanting to coach youth soccer and working with kids and this would be a chance for him to do that.  It gives everyone a face-saving out and doesn't put either the Front Office or Pablo through the ignominy of firing a club legend.

With the head coaching role being open, name Claudio Lopez interim head coach for the 2015 season.  I am assuming (always dangerous) since he was the one to take charge in Dallas when Pablo was suspended that he's interested in coaching and seen as the "most ready" to take the role.  Lopez has one simple mandate, using the current roster start winning games.  I think putting any playoff pressure on him is unfair given the hole he'd be inheriting so all he would need to worry about is winning games.  The  USOC and the Rocky Mountain could (should) be goals as well depending on the importance the Front Office wants to attach to them.

Then in the 2015-16 offseason hold a real coaching search, not the farce of the 2013-14 offseason.  Due to KSE budget realities the chances of signing a big name coach are almost nil but we can't start a third season in the last five with another rookie coach.  That's asking too much from the fans and the players.  So the focus of the coaching search should be on candidates that have some coaching experience and are looking for another chance and on coaches that can work with the current set of players and won't need to spend another two years in a rebuilding project.  The type of candidates I'm thinking of are coaches like Mike Petke, Robin Fraser, and Wilmer Cabrera.  If Claudio Lopez does well he would be a leading candidate and would come into 2016 with 20 games of experience should he get the job.

In the end this plan costs the Rapids (at most) paying Pablo an elevated salary to work with the academy in 2016 and going forward.  All other costs are already in the budget for 2015 (as interim Lopez wouldn't get (much of) a raise).  The 2016 budget has a head coaching salary in it, which the new coach would get.  They risk very little as this season is already going down in flames.  They get some positive PR for making a move when its necessary instead of letting another Clavijo situation develop.  And maybe we actually start seeing better soccer at the Dick in 2015.


Jester said...

There is one other option you overlooked. The season continues as it has been, and Pablo is still the coach next year. The team has said from the beginning that they are going to be patient with Pablo. Before calling for his head, ask yourself this: How long did it take for Jason Kries to get things right in Utah? 4 years? How long did it take Ben Olsen to get things right on D.C.? 5 years? Where would Salt Lake be today if they had replaced Kries after the first year and a half? Now I'm not saying that Pablo's going to turn out like them, but I can see the Rapids giving him the chance. Last year wasn't his team. This year we only have what, 3 regular starters that were on the team last season? Playoffs this year were nothing more than a pipe dream, even before the season started. If we aren't any better at this point next season then I could see people calling for a change. That's not to say that I think that will happen, bit it would at least be understandable. The Rapids aren't at a point where we can expect success every year, and fire coaches that don't deliver from day one. Remember, we've only ever had 2 decent seasons, out of 19. Plus the first half of '99. And we're never going to spend the money that other teams do. If we can build something from scratch, and make it work, we may finally be able to string a few good seasons together.
All that being said, I do think Lopez would be a better coach, but that is something that should have beenfigured out before hiring Pablo. Like you said, he's a club legend. You have to be real careful how you deal with him. He may not be willing to take a step down, even temporarily. And if you lose him now, you may never get him back.

Jason Maxwell said...

Kreis took over in mid-2007, in 2008 FSL made the playoffs and the conference final, by the end of 2009 he had won a MLs Cup. Olsen took over in mid-2010, by the end of 2012 DC had the 3rd best record in the league and made a conference final, in 2013 they won a USOC, in 2014 they won the Shield.

So using your examples the coaches took no more than 2 full seasons to make the conference finals and 3 full seasons to win a trophy. Do you see Colorado making the conference finals in 2015, Pablo's 2nd full season? Winning atrophy in 2016?

Jester said...

Alright, I thought they were there longer. Even so, they both had half a season to figure out what they had. Pablo had a month or less. They both then had 2 full offseasons to make changes before making conference finals. By that reasoning you would have to give Pablo another year. Again, I'm not saying that Pablo is, or should be, the man. Just guessing at what the club is going to do. I think the main problem is that we brought in too many new players. This has hurt the young core, that we were supposed to be building around. And it seems that almost everyone we brought in is a central midfielder or central defender. Now we can't figure out how to play them all, or what our best team is.
I do think we have the talent to make the playoffs, and even compete once there. Do I think Pablo can get the team there this year? No. Do I think he could do it in the future? Maybe. Is it worth waiting and seeing? Why not, its not like I have any confidence that they would find a better replacement. This is the club that thought Hankinson would be a step up from Meyrnick, and that Clavijo would be a step up from Hankinson. And even if they did make a change, the 3 year rebuilding cycle would start over and we wouldn't make the playoffs the next 2 years anyway.
If were going to call for a change, let's try to get Pablo to lose that rediculous moustache. Maybe that's causing the players to not take him seriously ;-)

Jason Maxwell said...

Kreis actually only had one full season before making a conference final. And that was a horrible FSL team he took over.

You ask what we gain by changing, we give Lopez that half season that Kreis and Olsen had to figure out what they had to work with and also to prove they had what it took to be a MLS coach.

I'll ask you, what from Pablo makes you believe he will improve?

Jester said...

What did they prove in that half season? They both finished last in their conferences.

As far as giving Lopez that half season, we can still do that next year. I doubt anyone is going to hire him away from us any time soon.

As far as Pablo, as a player he always had a driver and determination to improve. His first few years in colorado weren't stellar or even consistent. He was brash and prone to ill dicipline. But, he improved year after year. I have no reason to believe he's lost that just because he's coaching now instead of playing.

Its the club that made the mistake of making him head coach right away, instead of bringing him in as an assistant at first. They made their bed, now they have to lay in it. I would argue that they owe him the chance to figure it out. Not unlimited time of course, he did accept the job knowing he had no experience.
Of course this all moot if he's still under contract through next year. Like you said, the club isn't going to pay two coaches at the same time.