Los Angeles Soccer: Paul Mariner
The first coaching changes of the Major League Soccer have come down, neither all that surprising, although one of them is disappointing.
Philadelphia on Wednesday cut ties with Peter Nowak, who took the Union to the playoffs in year two, then dismantled the team piece by piece, infuriating the club's supporters and puzzling the youngsters on the roster.
Nowak, a Polish star who captained Chicago to the 1998 MLS Cup title, coached D.C. to the 2004 crown, served as Bob Bradley's chief assistant with the U.S. national team and guided the U.S. men at the Beijing Olympics four years ago, had dumped fan favorites Sebastien Le Toux and Danny Califf, then last week traded Danny Mwanga -- which the club took with the first pick in its first collegiate draft -- to Portland for Jorge Perlaza, a deal that made a lot of sense tactically.
The other moves, not so much, but the furor had become deafening. Assistant coach John Hackworth steps in as interim coach.
Toronto FC last week made the first change of the year, dismissing former Dutch superstar Aron Winter and giving the reins to director of player development Paul Mariner, the former English star and New England assistant coach. Mariner's first move was to simplify things, dumping Winter's 4-3-3 formation for a traditional 4-4-2.
Winter was ousted after the Reds lost their first nine league games, a mystifying run given the quality in the team. TFC has never been close to a success, but Winter in the past year had brought it to respectability, and many observers -- here, too -- predicted playoffs, especially after the CONCACAF Champions League triumph over the Galaxy. He delivered in the Canadian Championship, guiding the Reds to their fourth straight title and another Champions League berth.
Winter was the victim of circumstances and a management group that has repeatedly made poor decisions, at least until hiring Winter. We would have given him the rest of the season. Nowak? The right move.
Who's next to go? Chivas USA fans were out for Robin Fraser's head earlier this season, but he's going nowhere -- and Goats supporters should be very happy about that. Chivas is going to be very, very good soon.
Toronto had the worst record (1-9-0) in MLS, and Philly's (2-7-2) was No. 2. After that, it's the Galaxy (3-8-2). Should Bruce Arena be worried? We don't believe so, but L.A. has made five of its six head-coaching dismissals (or, in the parlance, agreed mutually to part ways) in midseason. Only two off those fired (Lothar Osiander in 1997 and Steve Sampson in 2006) had worse records than the Galaxy's current mark.
Here are this week's power rankings:
1. REAL SALT LAKE (9-3-2, 29 points), Last Week: 1
Week 14: Idle.
Latest: Alvaro Saborio's hat trick for Costa Rica has him brimming with confidence for Chivas USA clash.
On the All-Star ballot: G Nick Rimando, D Nat Borchers, D Jamison Olave, M Kyle Beckerman, F Alvaro Saborio, F Fabian Espindola.
Next: Saturday vs. Chivas USA at Home Depot Center (Carson), 7:30 p.m. (Prime Ticket and KWHY/Channel 22); Wednesday, June 20, vs. Galaxy, 6 p.m. (KDOC/Channel 56 and KWHY/Channel 22).
2. NEW YORK RED BULLS (8-3-2, 26 points), LW: 2
Week 14: Idle.
Latest: Thierry Henry back on the mend, missing training with a calf injury. Joel Lindpere and Rafa Marquez return from international duty with knocks.
On the All-Star ballot: G Ryan Meara, D Heath Pearce, M Joel Lindpere, M Dane Richards, F Thierry Henry, F Kenny Cooper.
Next: Sunday at Chicago, 2 p.m. (NBC Sports Network); Wednesday, June 20, at Vancouver, 8 p.m. (MLS Direct Kick).
3. SPORTING KANSAS CITY (8-3-1, 25 points), LW: 3
Week 14: Idle.
Latest: Emergency appendectomy sidelines defender Matt Besler.
On the All-Star ballot: G Jimmy Nielsen, D Aurelien Collin, M Roger Espinoza, M Graham Zusi, F Kei Kamara, F C.J. Sapong.
Next: Saturday vs. Toronto FC, 5:30 p.m. (MLS Direct Kick); Wednesday, June 20, at Seattle, 7 p.m. (MLS Direct Kick).