Before we jump into why Oscar "Papi" Pareja is worthy of Coach of the Year as he was in 2014.... and 2013, let me cover two things first.
1. Awards are stupid.
But it is largely because they keep going to the wrong people year after year.
2. Awards are stupid.
Now that we have that covered, let's begin to discuss why Pareja has earned the award that he won't get.
This is just my arbitrary rule of thumb, but I think it'll hold true with everyone: If your team didn't make the playoffs, then you are automatically out of consideration. 12 out of 20 teams make it into the postseason. If you can't guide your team to the top 60%, then you have no business being here.
So that automatically eliminates Adrian Heath (ORL), Jason Kreis (NYC), Jim Curtain (PHI), Owen Coyle (HOU), Jeff Cassar (RSL), Dominic Kinnear (SJ), Pablo Mastroeni (COL) and Frank Yallop/Brian Bliss (CHI). But that still leaves us with 12 coaches on the table but it's a decent start.
Again, arbitrary but for me, the winner here should be taking their team beyond was was expected from the team this year. So in the West that takes out Peter Vermes (SKC) for finishing 6th in the West (although you could argue that SKC did better than expected moving to the Western Conference), Bruce Arena (LA) for finishing 5th, Sigi Schmid (SEA) for finishing 4th. And then for the East, I would eliminate Jay Heaps (NE) for finishing 4th. Obviously all of these are up for debate, but I don't think anyone would find it too difficult if I said that none of these teams met or exceeded expectations heading into the season.
So based on this there are really only a handful of realistic Coach of the Year candidates (in no particular order):
- Oscar Pareja (FCD)
- Mauro Biello (MON)
- Jesse Marsch (NYRB)
- Carl Robinson (VAN)
Just Give it to Papi Already
To keep this post within reasonable reading length, I'll just focus on Pareja's credentials: the body of work. This is his third consecutive year that he's taken his club beyond what anybody had expected. 2013 - Took a young Colorado team
within a point of making the playoffs (lost out on head to head with San Jose) to the playoffs. (Wow this original text was really wrong. Apologies.) 2014 - A 10 point difference between seasons from FC Dallas moving Dallas from 8th to 4th in his first year in charge. 2015 - Took basically the same team from last year to first in the West and lost the Supporter's Shield on goal differential.
Oh, did I forget to mention that in FOUR years as a head coach he has coached up TWO MLS Rookies of the Year On top of exceeding expectations, Pareja did everything with a relative shoestring budget (lowest in the league) and still managed to get this club to the top of a very robust Western Conference.
But It's Going to Marsch
As much as I think that Pareja's has earned this award, my gut is telling me that this is going to Jesse Marsch. He too did a 10 point turnaround for the Red Bulls going from fourth to Shield winners. He also did it on a relative shoestring budget too (in fact, NYRB's salary was lower than Dallas' at one point). So with those being equal, do you give it to the American in a major soccer market or to the Colombian in a small soccer market?
But really, give the award to the person who most deserves it, or are you ready to meet this?