In 2012, I never said that Oscar Pareja was going to be a great manager despite being oft-accused of doing so. What I did say was that there is never a reason to fire a head coach or manager, regardless of what sport you're talking about, after their first season. Listening to fans in 2012, you'd have learned that Oscar Pareja was a coach that players hated along with being a guy who was hideous at talent evaluation, had no tactical ability, couldn't coach a defense, was lost when it came to interviews, and, most egregiously, couldn't lead a team to save his life in gameday situations.
In short, Pareja was a man that should have been fired immediately when the Rapids began to tank in 2012. At least, that was what the party line looked to be around the fanbase. (Our old friend @RapidsFacebook could testify!)
Fast forward two years, and that talent-less, inept, player-hated gameday flop is... a coach of the year front-runner and fan-beloved manager at FC Dallas, where he's turned the Hoops into the deadliest attacking team in the league and a clear MLS Cup favorite. Huh.
That brings us to Pablo Mastroeni, singing a similar song two years later. Tactical dud, bad talent evaluation, no gameday aplomb.
We've seen the great-MLS-player-turned-coach story before, and it usually starts with a struggle. In fact, that holds true in every sport. From Jason Kreis (6-13-7 in his first year with RSL) to Bill Belichik (6-10 his first year with the Browns) to Tony La Russa (70-90 his first full year with the White Sox) First year coaches struggle almost universally, and it tends to lead to a silly calls for a new coach's head rather prematurely in the 'what have you done for me lately' atmosphere that modern sports have. This certainly isn't a phenomenon that is unique to Rapids fans, and as a fan of several sports teams that tend to chew up and spit out coaches like chaw, I've seen it plenty of times before. A real #FirePablo campaign hasn't started up quite yet among the Rapids fans -- I assume it's because a club legend is going to get a tad more leeway than Pareja ever was -- but there have been... murmurings.
"Are you ready to admit that Pablo was a mistake?"
"When should we start taking the club to task on their hire?"
Things like that stink of really nice ways to say, "Fire the bum".
Comparisons to the Pareja situation aren't all accurate, but there are still reasons you can point to as to why the season has been so disappointing. Pablo came into a better situation than Oscar Pareja did, but it was a situation that turned out to be based on unrealistic expectations. When the Rapids hired Pablo, they did so with several mentions of 'continuity'. Mirroring Real Salt Lake, they wanted to keep Pareja's core roster and speedy style of play together and continue off of the nice starting point they created for themselves in 2013. Unfortunately, Jeff Cassar was able to pull it off in Utah thanks to years of learning under Kreis, but Pablo had no such luxury going into the Rapids. It became apparent very quickly that Pablo was playing the way he knew how, with defense-minded 4-4-2 formations and far more longball than Pareja had ever used.
This is a somewhat talented team -- whether they have the depth to be a consensus playoff team is another story -- but in addition to some injury woes and depth issues, it is being managed in a way that isn't helping lead to success. It was a team with players built to run and gun, and Pablo has them playing like a Tony Pulis team instead. (For the basketball literate out there, it's actually remarkably similar to the Nuggets firing George Karl, who had put together the best season in Nuggets history with a run 'n' gun style, and replacing him with Brian Shaw, who saw his team fail to make any impact as he decided to instead stress defensively smart basketball. At least no Rapids have actively revolted on the style yet, Andre Miller style, eh?)
As it was with Pareja, I'm not making the argument that Pablo Mastroeni is destined to become a great manager in the world of soccer. I do think that he will; he's got incredible soccer smarts and was a fantastic field general in his time as a player, both of which bode well for a decent career in management. The argument, regardless, remains the same. Under no circumstances less than an 0-34-0 season should a first-year head coach be given the axe. This is true of Pablo too, whether they lose one, five, or all of their remaining matches in 2014.