In the final stretch of their second MLS season, many Minnesota United players are playing for their jobs. With Allianz Field opening up in the spring and the unofficial close of the ‘soft launch,’ the Loons will be looking to put a playoff calibre squad on the field next year. That extended squad includes Adrian Heath. While the calls for his departure aren’t nearly as loud as the #WengerOut crowd of years past, there are rumblings around that question whether or not he is the man for the future.
Earlier this season, two playoff teams made a head coaching change, jettisoning two high profile coaches who made the move across the pond and replaced them with in house(ish) alternatives. Chris Armas was promoted from assistant to head coach to fill the vacancy on the Red Bulls side. Now ex-RBNY manager Jesse Marsch stayed in the Red Bull Family to become as assistant at RB Leipzig and New York City FC stayed within City Football Group to replace Nice-bound Patrick Vieira. His replacement, Domènec Torrent was the head coach of CFG owned Girona in 2006 and was an assistant to Pep Guardiola at Barcelona, Bayern, and Manchester City.
Both Torrent and Armas had big shoes to fill. Vieira was one of the best players in the world in his day, and was developing into an astute tactician on the sideline. Jesse Marsch didn’t have quite the playing career of Vieira, but was regarded as somewhat of a prospect in the manager department, with experience on the national team under Bob Bradley and a Supporters’ Shield victory under his belt during his young career.
Losing a manager is never ideal on the run into the playoffs for title contenders, but both sides knew what they were getting and had enough time to adapt to any nuances before crunch time. The two New York sides, however, have had varying degrees of success since their mid-season changes.
Assuming my math is correct (I never was a fan for showing my work, so direct all angry tweets to my high school math teachers), the Marsch/Armas transition was fairly pain free. Through 16 games, Marsch was 10-4-2 for an average of 2 points per game. Following his departure on July 6th, Chris Armas took over and has managed 15 games(including today’s 2-0 victory over Atlanta). He has a record of 9-3-3, also for a total of 2 points per game. The combination of their efforts has the Red Bulls up to second place in the Eastern Conference, a single point back of Atlanta. At worst they will end up in second place as they are nine point ahead of NYCFC who only have six points possible remaining.
On the other hand, NYCFC’s transition hasn’t quite yielded the results of their cross town rivals. Vieira’s tenure this season lasted for 15 games where he amassed a record of 8-3-4 for a total of 1.86 points per game. Torrent took over on June 11th and has had 17 games at the helm for the Bronx based club. Despite the additional games, he only has a record of 7-6-4 for a grand total of 1.47 points per game. The difference of .39 points per game cost New York City FC a total of 6.6 points over Torrent’s run. That doesn’t seem like much, and it’s not like they have dropped out of the playoffs, but those 6-7 points would have put them in position for to fight for a first round bye in the playoffs or even an outside shot at the Supporters’ Shield.
Many things could have accounted for the degrees of success that both successors have had in the second half of the season. Injuries pile up for both the players on their teams and on opponent’s teams, meaning that squads could have been weaker or stronger depending on when in the season games were played. The home/away split can, as Loons fans are painfully aware of, can impact results. Interestingly enough, Torrent’s two extra games were at home. The World Cup was right in the middle of the transition for both clubs, but both clubs only lost two players, and the World Cup only overlapped with a handful of games and impacted the league as a whole, not just the teams in New York. The biggest difference in the two freshmen managers is that Armas came from directly within the New York Red Bull’s system, whereas Torrent was joined from New York City FC’s sister team, Manchester City.
Chris Armas was able to pick up right where Jesse Marsch left off and keep on going. Domènec Torrent had to learn new players and a new team and because of that, the team suffered. If the Loons are going to replace Adrian Heath this offseason, the new manager will (probably) have the benefit of a full offseason to evaluate the team and make changes as they see fit. The club would also have to make a choice on whether to look internally for answers or to look at the broader managerial pool, both in MLS and around the world. If Heath is to be replaced, it will likely be for a different reason than why Marsch and Vieira were replace, but the Loons can still learn from New York City FC and Red Bull New York. A new manager doesn’t guarantee change, and it doesn’t guarantee green pastures either.