Three MLS coaches have already been fired this season.
The New England Revolution are much better off. Bruce Arena simplified the approach and players no longer feel the pressure of playing under Brad Friedel.
The Colorado Rapids have improved dramatically.
FC Cincinnati are no better than they were when they cut Alan Koch loose, but they have yet to hire a replacement and are trusting a roster of borderline MLS players.
Other teams could follow suit if results start to falter this summer. The coaches hot seat list is less foretelling now than it was last year, when four coaches were eventually let go. But teams have shown a growing willingness to switch managers. Here’s a look at the hot seat list as it stands.
1. Adrian Heath, Minnesota United
Heath has been on the hot seat for at least two years. He has never been convincing as an MLS manager, dating to his time with the inaugural Orlando City SC, and has slipped by as Minnesota manager since 2016 on the basis of the Loons’ poor roster talent.
Minnesota sit in a playoff place after a 7-1 annihilation of FC Cincinnati. With a solid foundation in positions where MNUFC have historically struggled, expectations are growing. Heath should face pressure to win with Darwin Quintero and the effective Jan Gregus-Ozzie Alonso midfield pairing. A losing streak that further diminishes confidence in Heath could see the Loons finally moving on.
2. Greg Vanney, Toronto FC
The clock is ticking for Vanney, whose TFC have won just once since the beginning of May. Toronto inexplicably missed the playoffs last year and are hovering at the red line this year despite a talented, star-filled squad. The outlines of the 2017 treble team are there. It might be hard for general manager Ali Curtis to keep Vanney around if TFC remain a middling team.
There are missing pieces in Toronto — they badly need a center back or two and could use another DP forward, likely a winger. But they should be better than they are.
3. Veljko Paunovic, Chicago Fire
Start with this:
In 3.5 years under Veljko Paunovic, Chicago are now 35-53-32 with a -16 goal differential. #RBNYvCHI— Matthew Doyle (@MattDoyle76) June 29, 2019
Pauno’s Fire have never been great outside of a fruitful 2017 stretch when they played good-looking possession soccer with Bastian Schweinsteiger at the forefront. Since, they’ve toggled between styles and schemes and have struggled to maximize the aging Schweinsteiger, who takes up a valuable DP slot while playing out of position at center back.
Chicago are mediocre, and Paunovic’s tinkering doesn’t help. It’s hard to see the Serbain crafting an identity out of his current squad. When the Fire move past their current core (which is aging), they shouldn’t entrust Paunovic to lead them forward.
4. Mike Petke, Real Salt Lake
It’s important to note that I do not write this with any inside information, just purely speculation. Beyond Paunovic, not too many coaches stick out as sitting on an especially warm seat. Petke might just be the perfect coach for this growing RSL team, with their heavy emphasis on Homegrown players. He may have upped his credibility with Real’s management further with last year’s surprising win over LAFC in the playoffs.
The only scenario that could see RSL losing faith in Petke as their coach of the future is if they remain below the playoff line and stagnate the development of players like Jefferson Savarino and Aaron Herrera.
5. Caleb Porter, Columbus Crew
It would be hard not include the coach of a team that has lost 10 of its last 12 games. The Crew are in a freefall and things have only worsened with injuries (Federico Higuain, Milton Valenzuela) and Gold Cup absences (Wil Trapp, Gyasi Zardes). They tried to keep things the way they were under Gregg Berhalter and fared well early in the season, only to plummet since.
A deep rebuild is probably coming. Columbus should make some players available for trades and transfers and start scouring the market for new signings. If Tim Bezbatchenko decides he needs a new leader to head up a rebuild, he could show Porter the door.