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MLS Sack Race 2017

With Jeff Cassar already out at RSL, which managers are most likely to be fired next?

MLS: Vancouver Whitecaps FC at San Jose Earthquakes Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

The MLS season has just begun and already we have had one managerial change. So where do the other managers stand right now?


Oscar Pareja: After a stellar 2016, with two trophies, Papi is basically untouchable. A recently signed contract and the best record of any current manager means the only thing Dallas have to worry about is bigger fish coming after Oscar.

Caleb Porter: Porter has earned safety in Portland. An MLS Cup in 2015 and an overall good record in MLS since his hiring in 2013 have made him a fixture. With an exciting team this year, it seems like Porter might further cement himself in the Rose City.

Tata Martino: One of the most impressive resumes in MLS, hand picked by Atlanta, and performing well with an expansion side. Tata is in a pretty secure place, even if he starts to struggle.

Patrick Vieira: Vieira’s NYCFC was much improved last year, coming 2nd in the Eastern conference. NYC’s good performances, the support of City Football Group and Vieira’s name recognition will keep him safe for some time.

Jesse Marsch: Red Bulls are consistently one of the best teams in the league, and have been top of the East since Marsch took over in 2015, as well as winning a Supporter’s Shield that year. He is as safe as they come.

Wilmer Cabrera: New to Houston this year, Cabrera brings experience to a team that has been floundering in the recent past. That shows in the change Houston has seen in 2017. The team is all around better, and Cabrera is getting more out of that side. After a series of managerial changes, Houston seem to have the right man.

Reasonably Safe

Gregg Berhalter: Berhalter is basically a fixture in Columbus having been there since late 2013. Columbus have made it to an MLS Cup Final in that period and made the playoffs twice. His record is good and the team looks improved this year from their awful 2016. The only real question is can he survive another bad season should Columbus start to drop.

Greg Vanney: Toronto went through a spate of managers before finally settling on Vanney, who has taken the club to the playoffs twice, and to an MLS Cup Final in 2016. So why isn’t he safe? Toronto are an ambitious club and Vanney just barely has a winning record in his time. How long until Toronto’s front office decides Vanney isn’t performing to their standards? Vanney is safe, but he doesn’t have the same leeway a lot of managers in MLS have.

Mike Petke: Replacing the recently sacked Jeff Cassar, Petke has his work cut out for him. Surely though he will have time to build Real Salt Lake, who have been struggling for a while. He should be safe so long as RSL don’t get significantly worse.

Brian Schmetzer: Schmetzer joined Seattle midway through 2016 and led them to an MLS Cup win, which had eluded Seattle for so long. So he’s safe right? Basically, but Seattle also have high standards and their are some doubts around the team. They have started slow in 2017 and their MLS Cup win wasn’t exactly awe-inspiring, Seattle failing to register a shot on target in the final. Still, he is probably safe.

Mauro Biello: Maybe the toughest coach to predict in the MLS. Biello’s results are kind of all over the place. Regardless, he has gotten Montreal to the playoffs for two straight years and has a winning record overall. Plus he is local that always helps.

Peter Vermes: Vermes has been with Sporting Kansas City since 2009 and in that time has won an Open Cup and an MLS Cup, as well as making the playoffs every year since 2011. The only worry is SKC’s slow decline the last few seasons, but if they keep making the playoffs and stay competitive, there is no reason to expect Vermes to go anywhere anytime soon.

Some Concerns

Pablo Mastroeni: At the start of last year Mastroeni seemed to be in the hot seat after two years of being awful. 2016 changed everything though and he managed to instill defense into the Rapids. They had a huge undefeated streak, and were second in the Western conference. But how much does 2016 matter if the Rapids go right back to being awful? Mastroeni dug himself out of the grave, but he will have to keep performing if he wants to stay out.

Dominic Kinnear: Kinnear is one of the most storied coaches in MLS, but his reputation and achievements have not made him successful in his last few seasons. He has failed to make an impact in San Jose or lead them to the playoffs since returning in 2015. If he sorts them out soon he should be alright. If he doesn’t he could be headed for the exit.

Jason Kreis: Kreis is a good manager. He was dealt a bad hand in New York, and now he is in a sticky situation in Orlando. Orlando has lofty ambitions and Kreis is there to improve them. So far he has, but with a club as eager to get into the playoffs as Orlando, anything less could mean the axe. Personally, I’d bet on Kreis to make the playoffs.

Veljko Paunovic: The Serbian manager was handed a real project in Chicago in 2016. Chicago have been consistently the worst team in the league for years. So far Paunovic has made smart moves, but placing dead last in 2016 certainly didn’t make him shine. If the new pieces Chicago has put together this year perform, especially Bastian Schweinsteiger, then Paunovic’s project will likely continue. It is Chicago though, so who knows?

Curt Onalfo: Los Angeles aren’t used to performing poorly. The best team in league history has struggled in its first few games under Onalfo, losing twice at home. With LAFC soon to join the league, now would be a bad time for the Galaxy to implode. With so much pressure to perform, Onalfo will have to start putting the pieces together if he wants to last long in California.

Jim Curtin: A lot of questions surround Philadelphia and the team Curtin has put together. He has been there since 2014 and managed to squeak into the playoffs once in 2016. Philly have started slow in 2017 and if the league continues to pass them by they may end up towards the bottom of the Eastern conference. Curtin will have to do better if he wants to remain at the helm.

In the Hot Seat

Jay Heaps: Heaps had one of his worst seasons in a while in 2016 and there was quite a bit of grumbling in the process. New England have the pieces to be a good team, yet they have been under-performing for a little while now. It feels like Heaps is running out of rope and if New England continue to tumble he may not last much longer.

Ben Olsen: Olsen has been at DC since 2010 and in that time his performance has been schizophrenic to say the least. He has won an Open Cup in that time, but has also set records for the worst team in league history in 2013. He has finagled DC into the playoffs several times, but failed to make it to the Final. The ups and downs of DC have to be getting old and this year has started as a down. Can Olsen ride out another bad year?

Carl Robinson: Robbo has coached Vancouver since the 2014 season and made the playoffs twice. Last year Vancouver were bad and so far 2017 seems no different. Robinson has failed to find the right pieces for his team and the trend downwards is liable to consume him if he doesn’t turn it around soon.

Adrian Heath: Yikes. What to say here. Heath had a tough time at Orlando in 2015 and ultimately failed to make the expansion side work. He was sacked and now finds himself in the same predicament, but worse. Minnesota are on course to set records as one of the worst teams in MLS history and Heath doesn’t exactly inspire confidence. How many games can Minnesota lose 5-1 before they are forced to find someone new? At this rate it be a surprise if Heath lasts through April, much less the year. If Minnesota don’t improve quick he is almost certainly gone.

Who do you think is the next manager to be fired in MLS?