By Kevin Koczwara
Steve Nicol has managed the New England Revolution for 10 seasons. In that time, he’s brought the Revs to four MLS Cup finals, one U.S. Open Cup and a SuperLiga championship and another SuperLiga final. His tenure in New England was a change from the old guard. Nicol took the Revolution into the next phase of MLS. He took a team struggling to find an identity and short on a cohesive plan and made it into one of the most consistent teams in the league — the team’s eight-straight appearances in the MLS Cup playoffs are a testament to that consistency.
The last two seasons for Nicol and the Revolution have been dire. The team has looked disjointed. Player’s haven’t developed. The defense has fallen into shambles. The team has lost quality core players. And many of the team’s marquee signings haven’t worked out, to say the least. And how much of that can be put on Nicol is questionable, but what is known is that the team struggled to work as a unit the last two seasons and Nicol struggled to get the best from the team at times.
It is time for the Revolution to make changes, but the team can’t try to patch up the manager job like it’s tried to patch up it’s roster over the past few seasons. This team needs someone with a vision and a plan. It needs a group of people who can come in and change the climate of the team right now. And it needs someone who can work with New England’s front office, which is a confusing mess of people who may or may not do any number of jobs.
Whatever happens now, the Revolution need to figure it all out and start re-building, quickly.
Possible Replacements for Steve Nicol
Steve Ralston — The former Revs player could be the main target. But he has limited coaching experience in Houston, and MLS rosters and salary caps are confusing for first time managers so he’d need a good support system around him. But, with his limited coaching experience, would he find his staff? And would he want this job?
John Ellinger — The former Real Salt Lake and U.S. Men’s U17 coach didn’t have a great spell as the first coach for RSL, but he’s gone on to become the top-assistant in Dallas and he’s been a major part of Schellas Hyndman’s rejuvenation of the team. His bench experience over the past three seasons under Hyndman has been good. Ad on his past experience developing talent at the U17 level and at expansion RSL, Ellinger looks like he could be a good fit.
Brian Schmetzer — Schmetzer lead the USL Sounders before the team finished its move to MLS and was retained my Schmid as his top assistant. With the success of Seattle and the team’s ability to add pieces and parts economically as well as build for the future, it will be hard to ignore it’s top assistant while searching for a coach.
Ray Reid — UConn Men’s Soccer has been as good as any college program in the country for the past 15 seasons, a lot of that success goes to Reid’s ability to rebuild the team every year and put out a well rounded side for each game. Would it be hard to get him to leave his seat at UConn? Probably. But with the kind of change that happens to MLS teams’ rosters every year, Reid would be a good choice to manage a squad and build a team, he’s proven he can do it every year at UConn.
Ken Lolla — Another college coach, Lolla lead Louisville to the Big East Championship in 2010 and has turned the Cards’ program around. He is the winningest coach in Akron’s history and developed a powerhouse program there. Maybe it’s time for a new challenge for the former Zip and current Card?
Sven-Goran Eriksson — Just kidding.
Kevin Koczwara can be reached at email@example.com.