Two new looks for MLS

January, 4, 2011

Two different approaches on display in two different MLS coaching announcements today. It will be fascinating to watch which philosophy pays off in the end.

For Chivas USA, which took forever to name a successor to Martin Vasquez, Robin Fraser will be introduced as the head man. Unless you believe a head coach must have head-coaching experience, it's difficult to find fault in this hire. Fraser was not only an excellent and cerebral player in the league for 10 years, but he also paid his dues as an assistant coach under Jason Kreis at Real Salt Lake for the past four seasons. He is a student of the game and exactly the type of hire that makes the league look good.

The bigger question with Chivas USA is going to be its game plan for making a truly bad club better in 2011. All the hopes and dreams that this could be a team with a real Mexican identity seem to have been lost since its inaugural season, when a group of players was forced upon then-coach Thomas Rongen.

The best hope for the club would be to find two or three significant impact players from Mexico and structure the rest of the team as any other club in MLS would structure itself. That is, with the best available players from wherever they might come from.

In Toronto, the appointment of Aron Winter must have been inspired by the success of Hans Backe with Red Bull New York this season. Because, before Backe, you'd have been hard-pressed to find a coach with no background in the American game who had come into MLS and embraced the league's unique setup and succeeded.

I'm leery of Winter not because of anything other than what I read about Toronto FC's plan to mimic the Ajax system. I know this will draw the ire of our Style Council, but I'm a believer that you have to play the style that suits your players. And you have to play a style that is going to put up points. Saying you're going to mimic any one system is nothing but lip service until that style results in points.

The fans of TFC certainly deserve a winner and Winter was, without a doubt, a great winning player. I remember visiting Inter Milan in 1998 when I was writing about Ronaldo and watching Winter run that team's midfield. He was certainly a coach on the field. If he can surround himself with the right people to help him put together a solid roster on MLS terms, and be adaptable -- applying the same leadership skills he used as a player -- there's no reason Winter can't be a successful coach.

Two different approaches for two teams that need to take a step forward in 2011.



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