Wednesday kickaround: A look at the MLS coaching shakeups, U-20 notes, Open Cup thoughts, & more
May 10, 2023
TO KICKOFF TUESDAY, we have a bunch of news and thoughts on a wide range of American soccer topics ranging from a wild day in MLS, Americans abroad, U.S. youth national teams, the Open Cup, dual national panic, and some random MLS thoughts.
Let’s start right at the top with some firings.
Struber & RBNY part ways
The term “mutually part ways” is often misleading. It typically is a gentle way to say someone is fired. That description was used on Monday in the news release announcing Gerhard Struber is no longer the head coach of the New York Red Bulls. But in this case, it probably was mutual. Struber was in the final year of his contract, his family was in Europe, the team hasn’t been able to score, and the team’s new DP forward is suspended for using a racial slur.
It seems likely that both the Red Bulls and Struber wanted to move on ASAP. And that’s what happened.
Assistant coach Troy Lesesne takes over for the remainder of the 2023 season and Lesesne had success in the USL Championship with New Mexico and Charleston.
Moving forward, the Red Bulls have so many questions. They’re not a typical last-place team. They’re not bad across the board. Defensively, they’ve only conceded 11 goals in 11 games. The team has also been hit with injuries worse than any other team in the league. Luquinhas, Frankie Amaya, and Lewis Morgan are all still hurt. Morgan was easily the team’s best player last season. The team spent a fortune on Dante Vanzeir and he is suspended. Those are two DP players and a TAM player the team is without. While a -4 goal differential is bad, it’s not horrendous for a last-place team.
Moreso, the team gets its chances every single game. Their finishing, however, is woeful. Typically, RBNY had a constant theme of creating a wave of chances early, never finishing, and then conceding to the other team against run of play. The team has bailed its way out of a number of games with late equalizers.
It's going to be tough for any manager to win with the Red Bulls depleted roster. But there is still a foundation for a turnaround. Defensively, the team is fine and there are chances being created. But there is still poor movement inside the box and the team mentally starts to become frustrated and force the issue after early chances fall by the wayside.
Lesesne has a lot on his plate. He must find a way to eke out results until the injured players return. Then he will have to politically handle the Vanzier situation when his suspension ends for the game on May 20th. Then, there will need to be reinforcements added during the summer for depth.
It remains to be seen if Lesesne will be rigid with the Red Bull philosophy. Will he develop a more nuanced approach that allowed for flexibility and possession?
The second MLS coach to get fired on Monday was Ezra Hendrickson of the Chicago Fire. Chicago is once again a team looking to climb out of the basement and into the playoff positions. Even with over half the teams making the postseason, the Fire have struggled to do so. They are only three points out of the last spot, but they are trending in the wrong direction again and it has been over a decade since they were last relevant.
Familiar face Frank Klopas will take over as an interim head coach.
#cf97 announced today that the Club has parted ways with head coach Ezra Hendrickson and assistant coach Junior González.— Chicago Fire FC (@ChicagoFire) May 8, 2023
The Club would like to thank Ezra and Junior for their contributions and wish them the best in their future endeavors.
The firing seems as if the team is getting desperate. Nothing has worked according to plan, and little of this is Hendrickson’s fault. Former Fire coaches Rapha Wicky as BSC Young Boys in Switzerland and Veljko Paunovi? now at Chivas are both doing well.
The constants are sporting director Georg Hietz and technical director Sebastian Pelzer who have spent money and had little to show for it. The club is paying Xherdan Shaqiri to be one of the dominant players in the league and that is not even close to happening.
The longer Klopas sticks around, it might signal that Heitz is on the hotseat.
The US. U-20 World Cup roster
The U.S. U-20 World Cup roster is set to come out today, Wednesday morning and there are a lot of moving parts with player releases. The roster isn’t settled yet.
ASN learned on Tuesday that Paxten Aaronson is not going to be released and this deals U-20 head coach Mikey Varas a huge blow as Aaronson was the team’s best player in qualifying.
Another player to watch is Wolfsburg’s Kevin Paredes who is a regular off the bench with the Bundesliga club. It seems unlikely he will be released for the entire tournament but perhaps there is an option where he comes in after the group stage.
In MLS, there has been a lot of talk about Brian Gutierrez not getting released. Varas should get most of his players from the country’s top domestic league. One remaining question is Jalen Neal, who is in flux as of Monday.
The roster should include, Jack McGlynn, Brandan Craig, Obed Vargas, Quinn Sullivan, Diego Luna, Owen Wolff, Daniel Edelman, Caleb Wiley, and Darren Yapi who are all based in MLS. Based abroad - Gaga Slonina, Alex Borto, Justin Che, and Jonathan Gomez should also be there. Based in the USL Championship, Josh Wynder should also be on the team.
Many of the players are already in Argentina but Edelman and McGlynn are leaving after the upcoming round of MLS games on Saturday.
The U.S. Open Cup
The U.S. Open Cup’s round of 32 got underway on Wednesday and here are some thoughts:
First, RBNY played well against a DC United team that was mostly backups. This was the first game the team had played under Lesesne and RBNY scored early on their prettiest goal of the season as a pass from Tom Barlow found Omir Fernandez making a run in the box – something that has been missing.
It anther interesting storyline, the Chicago Fire also prevailed one day after firing their head coach via a 2-1 win over St. Louis. Brian Gutierrez won’t be with the U.S. U-20 team via the club denying his release but he did well.
Brian Gutierrez: raw # for #cf97 in a 2-1 win vs St Louis— Brian Sciaretta (@BrianSciaretta) May 10, 2023
4 chances created
11/21 ground duels won
? nice game from the hypothetical U.S U-20 attacking mid/wing
I like Gutierrez as a player. It’s hard to project his ceiling just yet but he fights very, very hard and is an effective player for Chicago. It’s too bad we won’t see him in Argentina.
Also of note,
Jesse Marsch was at the U.S. Open Cup game last night in Chicago. https://t.co/qcK17tRHq9— Brian Sciaretta (@BrianSciaretta) May 10, 2023
The best game of the night was in Minnesota as Minnesota United defeated Philadelphia on penalties after a 3-3 draw over 120 minutes. Kai Wagner had two late equalizers for the Union, the first in the second minute of second half stoppage time and the second of a beautiful free kick in the 119th minute.
Philadelphia seemed destined to win the game after the dramatic equalizers but Minnesota prevailed with impressive penalties in a 7-6 scoreline in the shootout.
LAFC also was impressive on the day starting eight teenagers against the USL Championship’s Monterrey Bay, who upset San Jose in the previous round.
One of the few LAFC veterans to play was goalkeeper Eldin Jakupovic who scored a goal in the shootout and make two saves – including the game-winner in the sixth round. Among LAFC’s teenagers who stood out were Mexican-American dual nationals Christian Torres and Nathan Ordaz who both could have been at the U-20 World Cup but Mexico failed to qualify last year.
The one upset (or “cupset”) was the Pittsburgh Riverhounds who defeated the New England Revolution 1-0. Bruce Arena started many reserves in the loss including former U.S. international Jozy Altidore who has been battling fitness issues for a very long time now. Arena had this to say on Altidore after the game.
Bruce Arena on Jozy Altidore’s 90 minute performance for the #NERevs in a 1-0 #USOC2023 loss to Pittsburgh— Brian Sciaretta (@BrianSciaretta) May 10, 2023
“He has a way to go with his fitness. He was obviously exhausted in the end, and we used all our available substitutions, so he had to suck it up.”
Overall, it’s been a good tournament for MLS teams who have been able to give young players meaningful minutes and win. Heading into Wednesday night, MLS teams are 19-3 against lower league opponents.
Ugliness north of the border
Meanwhile in Canada, the Canadian Championship tournament provided this horrible display from supporters in Toronto. Montreal defeated Toronto FC, but during the game there was this in the stands. While this wasn’t an MLS game, we will see if the league gets involved with Toronto’s lack of security.