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Who Has Been the MLS Coach of the Year?

For the first time in a few years, the race for MLS Coach of the Year has been pretty hotly contested. With so many historic losers having good years, it seems to me that there is a multitude of individuals who could hear their named called at the season’s conclusion.

Who should get it for 2008?

Well, other than Bob Bradley, no one has ever won the award twice. MLS seems to prefer to spread the love around. That’s bad news for Preki who took top honors last year, but he probably isn’t even in consideration this time around anyways. Kinnear has also won the award (in 2005 with the Quakes), and Yallop did the same (in 2001, also with the Quakes). Sigi Schmid did it in 1999 with the Galaxy, and Arena took the honor in 1997 with DC United, but unlike Sigi, Bruce has no shot this year with his new squad.

Here are my top 5 front runners (in no particular order):

Sigi Schmid:

Why He’ll Win: He’s taken last year’s sixth place finisher in the East (only ahead of expansion TFC) to the top of the tables and likely the playoffs. Not too shabby for someone the Galaxy once got rid of because he didn’t encourage an “entertaining” style of soccer (because losing 4-3 sure is “entertaining”, isn’t it Galaxy fans?)

Why He Won’t: It’s Schmid’s third season with the Crew, so if he hadn’t turned them around by now, he would likely be looking for work.

Frank Yallop:

Why He’ll Win: If Yallop can get expansion San Jose to the post-season, he’ll surely be deserving of this award. While other teams have players who have taken the pitch together for years, the Quakes had to find chemistry quickly, and Yallop helped them discover it. Not too shabby for someone who the Galaxy fired after last season (I think I’m starting to see a pattern here…)

Why He Won’t: If the Quakes don’t make the post-season, Yallop shouldn’t get the award. The West has been, for lack of a better word, shitty this year and MLS can’t justify giving the award to anyone in that division who can’t make the playoffs.

Jason Kreis:

Why He’ll Win: In a little over a year and a half, Kreis has taken RSL from last place in the West last season to second place in ’08. He’s done a phenomenal job of competing without the “big names” other teams can’t play without. 

Why He Won’t: Like Yallop, if Kreis can’t get his team to the post-season, his chances of winning this award will take a huge hit. While RSL will definitely finish 2008 stronger than 2007, he needs to get in the big dance to have a shot at the award.

Steve Nicol:

Why He’ll Win: Nicol has been quietly amassing great seasons for the Revs every year since 2002 when he first won the Coach of the Year Award. Of all the managers in the league, no one has neen more overlooked for the Award since he won his last one as well. His team could still take the Supporters’ Shield from Schmid’s Crew, which could make him a frontrunner. Plus he has that Super Liga title.

Why He Won’t: The Revs have been damn good for years and MLS likes to give the award to the man who turned a club around, not the guy who just maintains his club’s success. Funny thing is though, if you look at all the player transfers and injuries Nicol has had to deal with this year, you can quickly tell a less able manager could have let the season go to waste. Not Nicol though.

Denis Hamlett:

Why He’ll Win: He took last year’s fourth place finisher in the West and has made them into one of the top teams in the league. Not to mention, he’s done it in the aftermath of Chicago’s messy breakup with Osorio.

Why He Won’t: Despite the fact they finished towards the bottom of the league table last year, they did almost make it to the Championship, so MLS may go with someone who achieved a more drastic turnaround.

My prediction? Well, if SJE makes the playoffs, I think you have to give it to Yallop. If the Quakes fall short, I think Sigi Schmid should get the award. He’s taken a mediocre bunch and made them into MLS’s best team, and for that, he deserves Coach of the Year honors.