14 April 2008

...and Chairman Mao he loves the Repitition...

I hate to do this, but let's revisit the Immutable Law of Firing the Head Coach. From not quite one year ago, when I wrote the following on the idea of firing Tom Soehn:
  1. Has the coach permanently lost the team? A team that just doesn't put stock into their coach means you either change the team, or change the coach. One of those is feasible.
  2. Is the coach consistently outsmarted? Even if the coach has the ear of the team, it makes little difference if what he tells them to do will always be ineffective from week to week.
  3. Is the coach adapting and improving when things are bad? There's a time to stay the course, but even if you know what you want to do, and it isn't showing up on the pitch, you need to adapt to get results. The line between persistent and obtuse can be a small thing.
  4. Is the team performing better or worse as time goes on? Changes made in training or personnel must show up in better results on the field, or they are useless.
  5. Is there a better option out there? If you're going to change the coach, you better have a strategy for what comes next.
  6. Are there mitigating circumstances, such as injuries, that might mean we're not seeing a true reflection of the performance of the team? Look, sometimes you're just unlucky, and it is stupid to make a huge change just because the breaks aren't going your way.
  7. Do we really have an accurate picture of how the team is performing? Similar to #6 above,but more of a caution about the danger of small sample sizes.
Based on the answers to the questions above, I would then summarize with the big question: Do you believe it is unlikely that this team will perform at an acceptable level in the future?
My answers at this time:
1. No.
2. Not yet, but let's keep watching this. The worst thing may be if Soehn is outsmarting himself.
3. Too soon to tell, but let's reconvene after Thursday.
4. Too soon to tell, but let's reconvene after Thursday.
5. Some people think so.
6. No.
7. Yes.

Based on the checklist, that's three things not in Soehn's favor (#s 5, 6, and 7) and one supporting him (#1). There are three undecided questions. With that, we come to the big question.

BIG QUESTION: Right now, I am still more hopeful about the season than despondent. We've had two league losses, but we've also seen some good play and good results (two international wins, one league).

So to summarize, it ain't time to start the SOEHN OUT!!11!!!1!eleventy!!!1! posts, but it ain't too early to think about what would need to happen to make that time arrive. And that, not to put too fine a point on it, sucks. My sense is that we get through this, that this is just one of those periodic phases. My concern is a voice in the back of mind saying of course, that's what you'd like to believe...



At 14 April, 2008 18:16, Anonymous bdr said...

There is no hesitation. This is the situation.

At 14 April, 2008 20:08, Blogger Brian said...

I hated this feeling this morning, I fought it when i wrote my piece mid-morning and I still hate the idea tonight... but I will not be suprised if The Bruce does make his way back into MLS this season, and not suprised if he does in DC.

I don't think it should happen, but don't expect me to be suprised.

At 14 April, 2008 22:05, Anonymous Jeremy said...

How quickly we forget. Doesn't anyone remember that pasting we got AT HOME by KC last year. I sat through the rain at that game (with a friend that I was introducing to the team) and I still have a bitter taste about it.
I thought the season was over after that, but Soehn made the correct adjustments, the team got through the growing pains, and it worked out pretty well.
We don't know Soehn's reasoning for doing what he did. If things don't improve dramatically on Thursday, I might listen to the chants. I won't join in yet, but I will listen.
Pride is on the line here!

At 14 April, 2008 23:03, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nah, Tommy isn't that close to the edge. He made a bad call in Utah, and DCU missed the CONCACAF boat, but things are not so dire.

DCU showed well against Pachuca -- not at all an embarrassing effort. They look ok in MLS -- not a great start, but enough mitigating circumstances to allow for some slack.

The RSL game was the first (only) major coaching gaff, as I see it. And all my irritation aside, it was an insignificant match, so long as the next few weeks go well.

Tommy has earned a little credit. He's willing to take some risks -- allowing for big upside and treacherous downside. We're happy enough when it works out well, so we have to live with the risk and get over things like the RSL match.

No excuses, and I'm still pissed, but we'll let it go and move on. It will take some extended, consistent failure to start a genuine call for Sohn's departure.

At 14 April, 2008 23:45, Anonymous Nick said...

Soehn is neither a positive nor a negative to this team. I don't expect him to help us or hurt us. With a good team, I expect that Soehn will deliver good results, nothing better and nothing worse. If we had a bad roster, then we would expect bad results. However, if its "Great" that we are aiming for, well we all know that we're not going to get that from him. In my mind, whether or not he should be the coach has way more to do with financial constraints and expectations than it does his greatness as a coach. He should only be replaced if there is a high expectation for the coach's from management's standpoint and if management is willing to spend the money on a better coach. If not, he has done nothing to deserve to be fired in my mind.

At 15 April, 2008 11:17, Anonymous Anonymous said...

There was major turnover in the squad in the offseason so continuity has yet to develop fully,

...MLS rosters are crippled by the salary cap---especially for a side competing in two different competitions at the same time in the first days or the new season---that keeps squads about as thin as Wal-Mart storebrand Kleenex,

...and all of that is supposed to get all nice and polished shiny in the MLS preseason which is virtually a joke,

...and in our case, preseason basically meant handing all the new guys their new shirts and sending them onto the field to limber up a moment or two before plopping them into the middle of the CCC, and all within a span of about four minutes,

...but we're supposed to panic because Soehn went 3-4-3 against RSL? And got smoked? With at best the A-minus squad? If not a B-squad? And Benny on the bench still with bum ankles? And Jaime iffy while clanking around with dented hammies?

I agree 100 percent about hating the RSL result---when I saw the score on ESPN News Saturday night, I admit I described my pain with a favorite four-letter word that starts with "S" and rhymes with the last syllable of "Damnit!" which my two-year-old instantaneously mimmiced and of which my wife was not in support, but still...it is early in the season.

Are we on guard now because this stinks? Of course.

But aren't we all also fully literate in the ways of sports, and that even this season's Boston Celtics and their revamped roster, for example, have been off their game a time or two this term and gotten hammered as a result on those nights?

And don't those good teams know that they lay a stinker or two over the course of a season, and they just chalk it up to a bad night, and then get back to work?

I think we are on the verge of being a very good team; better than last year and (just...) deep and sharp enough to be the class of the league and lift the Cup in November.

But you don't start icing the cake and then complaining about the taste when it's only been in the bleedin' oven for five minutes.

I really think this season for United could be a boomerang type: our talent level is so much higher than in the past that it makes the squad's makeup a bit more volatile. I think that when we start to click, we'll start destroying opponents and it will come on kinda sudden like---but there's likely to be a handful of stinkers before that moment. I think the tipping point for this particular team will be sudden and sharp. And since we're blessed with the MLS playoff system instead of a single table championship, we have the advantage of being able to hit that tipping point some time between Memorial Day and the 4th of July and then rampage our way through the end of the season and through the playoffs.

At 15 April, 2008 13:44, Anonymous Skippy said...

I have to think its too early for this. And even Thursday a loss tomorrow might be too early. Though grumbling would be acceptable if you could place it at Soehn's feet.
Yeah, it really seems like he screwed up in Salt Lake. But can we place the losses to Pachuca and KC on him as well? I have to go with the "let's wait and see" attitude. Its entirely possible to be beaten without the coach screwing up. He messed up in a huge way, but its not like we call for player's job off an own goal or a keeper's job for letting a ball slip through.
As for there being better coaches out there, I'm hardly an authority to speak, but I would agree that nothing from Soehn has been spectacular that I would regret trying to trade up. And it does make sense that as DC's player talent improves, you would want additional managerial talent as well. But without a good option in the pipeline, I think its far too early to talk about firing Soehn.

At 15 April, 2008 13:48, Anonymous BigKris said...

D, first of all, I think your framework for how to evaluate if a coaching change is called for is excellently thought out.

I disagree with you, however, on the answers to points 6 and 7. I think there are mitigating circumstances and small sample size because the team is facing the unique challenge of trying to integrate so many new faces into the squad, including four directly into the starting lineup. It took several games last year before Emilio and Fred settled in and the team clicked and that was with only adding two players.

The result though is that I end up agreeing with you again, in that Soehn's real litmus test is not what has happened in CCC or the first couple of league games, but RIGHT NOW: how does he manage his team through this low point? Does he rally them, do they keep their heads up? And do the tactical decisions and individual performances improve? This is exactly the kind of situation where you get a really stripped bare view at a coach's effectiveness.

At 15 April, 2008 19:58, Blogger Shatz... said...

I disagree that we should even be talking about this right now. DC has always performed poorly at Salt Lake. And I don't think we're the only team in sports that has a tendency to come up lame after a hugely emotional match.

I'm still less concerned about the loss to Salt Lake and more impressed with the win over Pachuca. I think we're forgetting too quickly how well DC played at home against Pachuca, and how Soehn's tactical moves in that game actually served to out-coach a man who is widely considered a possibility to be the next coach of Mexico's National Team.

At 15 April, 2008 20:44, Blogger Sean said...

Eh. This is beginning of season hype where everything is Important and Meaningful because it is New. If we had a run of games like this loss-big win over a bad team-embarrassing loss in the middle of June, no one would be examining the coaching season.

It'd be just how things are going. But because it is the beginning of the season, it all means something.

Anyone remember 0-3 start?


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