Back on July 2nd, I wrote about five MLS coaches who could be on the hot seat.
At the time, three managers (Brad Friedel, Anthony Hudson, Alan Koch) had already been fired. Since, two more have been let go. The Dynamo fired Wilmer Cabrera, who didn’t even make my hot seat top five. Real Salt Lake cut ties with Mike Petke, who did make the list, but was fired for his outburst against a referee in the Leagues Cup.
Plenty has changed in the month and a half since the last edition was published. Adrian Heath, whose seat boiled at the time, has started winning with Minnesota United. Caleb Porter’s Columbus have stabilized some.
Let’s take a look at an updated top 5 MLS coaches on the hot seat.
1. Veljko Paunovic, Chicago Fire
Chicago are surprisingly just a point out of the playoffs in the Eastern Conference, but they’re 10th and have played one or two more games than every team ahead of them. They’ve won three of four, but before that they had won just once in 12 games.
Paunovic doesn’t seem quite sure where he wants to take this Fire team. Personnel and tactical looks shift too often. Bastian Schweinsteiger is still playing center back. Chicago will make significant off-field changes this offseason, and they may want a new manager to carry them into the future.
2. Greg Vanney, Toronto FC
The story for Vanney’s TFC is still underperformance. Toronto can’t seem to figure out how to win, despite a certain amount of talent and depth. Even Omar Gonzalez’s competence on defense hasn’t pushed the Reds forward.
TFC signed two Targeted Allocation Money wingers in the summer transfer window, but we haven’t seen much of either player yet. As it was back in July, the clock is ticking for Vanney.
3. Remi Garde, Montreal Impact
Garde’s seat is a few ticks cooler than Paunovic and Vanney, who are boiling right now. The Impact are in the playoff race with an inferior roster to Vanney’s TFC. But Montreal are quietly free-falling right now, losing six of their last eight games and transferring their best defender, Zakaria Diallo, back to Ligue 2.
The defense has struggled, despite Garde’s compact, counter-attacking tactical approach. They’ve given up a total of 12 goals in their last three games, including six against the Rapids in a wild loss. Garde can blame some of those struggles on the personnel, but he has to find a way to tighten the ship and grab some results.
UPDATE: Remi Garde has been fired and replaced by Wilmer Cabrera. That was fast.
4. Adrian Heath, Minnesota United
Heath retains a spot, though Minnesota’s recent positive run of form has cooled his seat considerably. I don’t think Heath is a difference-making manager, and I have questions about whether Minnesota can legitimately win with him at the helm. However, he has used his pieces well of late. MNUFC have lost just once since June 8, and that loss came in Dallas with multiple players rested.
He’s bought himself some time. With Minnesota enjoying second place in the West, he’ll get a chance to coach in the playoffs for the first time.
5. Caleb Porter, Columbus Crew
Porter is the only other coach who is even vaguely on the hot seat, and I don’t really think Porter is fearing for his job right now. Columbus managed to stop their incredible stretch of losses and now have started looking a little better. He will have a chance to oversee the Crew’s presumed revamp coming soon.
The other coach who I thought about putting here is Ben Olsen, whose D.C. United is in a very precarious position at the moment, but DCU don’t seem like they’re ever firing him. Vancouver will (and should) give Marc dos Santos more time to figure things out.
Who: Manchester United vs Crystal Palace
When: Saturday, August 24th @ 10:00 am ET on NBC Sports
Where: The Etihad
Line: Manchester United -278 | Draw +400 | Crystal Palace +800
After flying high for about a week, Manchester United crashed into reality when Wolves bit back in a frustrating draw in the Monday Premier League fixture. Well, there goes their chances of winning the league! In all seriousness, they had the chance to win but Paul Pogba’s penalty miss has been making the rounds since.
United struggled to create many chances against the rigid Wolves side, but now aim to use Crystal Palace as their punching bag. Roy Hodgson is walking on thin ice after failing to win/score a goal so far. With former devil Wilfried Zaha aiming to make a statement, the match won’t be the easiest for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side. However, they still look more confident than last season and should put on a wonderful show for Old Trafford.
Manchester United Likely XI:
De Gea, Wan-Bissaka, Lindelof, Maguire, Shaw, McTominay, Pogba, James, Pereira, Rashford, Martial.
Despite the setback at Wolves, OGS shouldn’t really make many changes to the team which looks set together nicely. Jesse Lingard should, for me, be dropped after a toothless outing at Wolves, as perhaps Andreas Pereira will get another chance to shine. Fred, as well as Diogo Dalot, could return to the bench after being absent for two weeks.
Crystal Palace Likely XI:
Guiata, Ward, Kelly, Dann, Van Aanholt, Townsend, McArthur, Milivojevic, Meyer, Zaha, Ayew.
Hodgson could be forced to make a couple of changes to hold his own at Old Trafford, as the more mobile Jordan Ayew, I think, should come in for the wasteful Christian Benteke to lead the line for his side. Gary Cahill will need to wait for his Palace debut, while defender James Tomkins is still on the sidelines nursing an injury.
Manchester United vs Crystal Palace preview
When questions were raised from United against Wolves, they failed to really come up with concrete answers. However, they’ll aim to continue their fine run at Old Trafford by picking up another resounding victory. Crystal Palace might be in a tough place right now, but have enough quality to cause an upset on any given day, which is enough reason for the Red Devils to be cautious.
Despite all their frailties being exposed at Wolves, United seems to have found back their dominant form and controlled proceedings at the Molineux. Ole’s side looks more menacing going forward thanks to the pace inlued by Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial. Paul Pogba also looks more comfortable dictating play from deep, while also being allowed to contribute defensively.
With his robust system, United are less exposed to attacking pressure. Even though Aaron Wan-Bissaka along with Harry Maguire have added two-folds protective layers in their backline with their stellar defensive work. As AWB plays against the side which moulded him into this superstar, he’ll aim to put in his third MOTM-candidate performance against former team-mate Zaha.
The visitors, meanwhile, would hope that Lady Luck shines brightly on them to give them a freak win to get their season in shape once again. Roy Hodgson’s quickly becoming a favorite to be the first sacked manager of the Premier League season, but a poor summer transfer window hindered his side’s chances. He’ll hope Zaha, Andros Townsend and co can destabilize United’s defence and for his backline to be ready for the onslaught that’s coming.
With a tough September ahead, United need to win this one convincingly and I think should get a compelling 2-0 win to get their momentum back on track.
It’s probably too early in the season to say forget what you thought you knew about La Liga, but man, what a weekend in Spain. And if now isn’t a good time for a knee-jerk reaction or two, then when is??
First, preseason runaway favorite Barcelona fails to score without Lionel Messi and loses at Athletic Bilbao 1-0 on Friday.
Then, Real Madrid enjoys what seems like its first drama-free afternoon in an eternity, blowing out Celta Vigo 3-1 on Saturday.
On Sunday, João Félix shows in one ultimately fruitless run down the right side of the pitch what the buzz is about. New-look Atletico Madrid wins 1-0, but maybe Los Rojiblancos aren’t as “new-look” as we think.
We’ll get to Barcelona’s shocking loss and our first look at Atleti after their summer overhaul, but we have to start with Los Blancos.
Real Madrid, as it turns out, still has a few quality pieces
I maintain that the hand-wringing about this team’s ’18-19 season and tumultuous (despite several quality signings) offseason was justified. But that’s not the point right now.
After a summer his club spent trying to move him, Gareth Bale quickly reminded us that when on the field, healthy and engaged, he’s a huge asset. He assisted Karim Benzema in the 12th for his team’s first goal of the season. His place in the starting lineup and strong performance – WhoScored gave him a 7.84 for his 75 minutes – make you wonder if all of a sudden, things between him and Zinedine Zidane are copacetic??
Anyone who hasn’t seen Toni Kroos’ long-distance strike in the 61st to make it 2-0 missed a beauty.
His stunner, along with what we saw from Bale and Benzema, bring me to something we might be repeating throughout the upcoming season: RM was a team full of historically good players who did not play well a year ago. There’s a big difference between having talent and underachieving and simply lacking top players. Fortunately for Madridistas, their case clearly falls into the former category, as evidenced by them leading 3-0 until an extra time goal by Celta Vigo. By winning that comfortably despite playing with 10 men for a significant stretch – Luka Modric was sent off in the 56thh – Real Madrid sent a message.
We’ll close the RM portion of this piece with a reminder that Celta Vigo finished last season in 17th place in La Liga and is not expected to be a contender this season either.
Is Barcelona in trouble?
The logical reaction to the Catalans’ season-opening loss would be to shrug it off as a fluke result directly related to Lionel Messi’s absence due to a calf injury. But this team has too many weapons to be shut out, regardless of who’s available.
Speaking of availability, by late Monday, we’d learned that Ousmane Dembélé will be out a month or more with a hamstring injury. Is the talented Frenchman ever going to be fit enough to stay on the field? He’s still young, but it’s already a question worth asking.
Luis Suárez, who came off before halftime, is likely out until after the September international break with a calf issue of his own.
Messi (who could play this weekend) plus Antoine Griezmann plus whoever joins them up top is not exactly a limited trio. But the season is one game old, and three of the Catalans’ top four players are already dealing with health issues. It’s (way, way) too early to doubt this team, but Ernesto Valverde must be concerned that injuries are a legit topic of conversation this early on.
One player who won’t be the answer if Barcelona’s top options are unavailable for long is Philippe Coutinho, whose ill-fated move to Catalonia ended (for now) with his loan to Bayern Munich.
Before moving on, a little love for the team that beat Barcelona on Friday. Check out the game-winner by Athletic Bilbao’s Aritz Aduriz in the 91st. Not a bad bicycle kick for a 38 (!)-year-old who came on as a sub in the game’s waning minutes. (The highlight starts at around :39).
João Félix shines for Atlético Madrid
On the surface, Atlético winning 1-0 over defensive-minded Getafe was about as predictable and unremarkable as any result in Europe this weekend.
But if one game, and one run in particular, was any indication, Atleti is must-see TV thanks to their 19-year-old Portuguese phenom. Hopefully, the next penalty he draws will end up in the back of the net (Álvaro Morata missed the PK that was awarded on this one).
🔥Joao Felix lit up his @atletienglish debut with a run reminiscent of a certain @LaLigaEN legend 👀@gary_bailey1, @KaylynKyle & @TRongen break down biggest moments from Atleti’s win in today’s Coach’s Corner.— beIN SPORTS USA (@beINSPORTSUSA) August 18, 2019
🎥 Full video: https://t.co/m0aMrBfXrH pic.twitter.com/vNh6Va4aeG
We see a couple things here. First of all, holy shit, what speed, control, etc. Also, as if we didn’t know this already, this kid is going to get roughed up as the season rolls along. It might already be foolish to question whether he’s talented enough to make an impact right away. It will be interesting, however, to see how he holds up against the physical pounding he’ll continue to absorb from frustrated defenders.
One other takeaway from Atleti’s win: Yes, this team appears more capable than ever of winning an open, high-scoring battle. But if Diego Simeone‘s club goes up 1-0, it’s more than happy to rely on its defense the rest of the way, which appears stout again. Getafe did not register one shot on target on Sunday.