OFFSIDE REMARKS (MLS SPECIAL) Coaching carousel could be a busy one
By Michael Lewis
The MLS's head-hunting season has gotten off to an early start.
Only seven games into the season, the first coach has bitten the dust. Steve Morrow Tuesday was shown the door by FC Dallas. Among his crimes? A 2-3-3 record and bad morale in the locker room. The straw that broke the camel's back was the 5-1 pasting by the Los Angeles Galaxy at Pizza Hut Park, Dallas's home.
Morrow's departure could signal the start of a busy firing season in MLS. That could go double in the underachieving Western Conference, where three teams -- the Colorado Rapids, Los Angeles Galaxy and the Houston Dynamo are tied for the lead -- each with a .500 record (Dallas is next, three points back at nine points).
"The team are feeling the pressure and will be making decisions earlier and earlier," said one MLS insider. "There is a lot more intensity this year.
"In the past, keeping at .500 was considered OK. That might not be the case any more."
The expansion of the league has something to do with it. With the addition of the San Jose Earthquakes, MLS stands at 14 teams (with Seattle and Philadelphia joining the league the next two seasons). There are still eight playoff berths, so it becomes more difficult to reach the post-season.
"With more teams, there is more competition," the MLS insider said. "You fall behind too early, it's hard to make up the games."
So, who will be the next to go?
Rumors abound in the league that Tom Soehn is not safe with D.C. United, according to league sources. D.C. is in last and seventh place in the Eastern Conference with a 2-6 record and six points. Only one other team has fewer points -- the Earthquakes (1-5-1, four) in the West.
Toronto FC could play a major role in whether Soehn is coach next week as United plays the Canadian team twice in a rare home-and-home series this week (in Toronto Wednesday night and in Washington, D.C. Saturday). D.C. would need to accrue four out of six points -- a win and tie -- to keep his job for the time being. Anything less could mean dismissal.
"They need to pull off a string of victories to get back on track," the MLS insider said. "The team made many changes this year. They have talented players. But it takes a while to get adjusted."
But you have to wonder if the patience of United president Kevin Payne is beginning to run out. After all, United isn't just any other MLS club. It has four MLS Cup trophies and won the Supporter's Shield last season.
One story going around is that former Red Bulls and U.S. national coach Bruce Arena would be a leading candidate to replace Soehn.
Last weekend Arena told reporters prior to the Red Bulls-Kansas City game that he would be interested in another MLS job. He is a color announcer with the Wizards.
"I would be surprised," one source said of Arena possibly returning to United.
Arena directed United in its first three seasons, guiding the team to the first two MLS Cup titles and into the championship game in 1998 before leaving to coach the National Team.
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