The New York Red Bulls won their second Supporter's Shield in three years. However, this go-round was with a largely different staff and roster since 2013. Andy Roxburgh made way for Ali Curtis. Curtis relieved Mike Petke of his duties to make room for Jesse Marsch. Thierry Henry, Tim Cahill and Peguy Luyindula all left after 2014. They were replaced with names like Felipe Martins, Sacha Kljestan and Kemar Lawrence, to name a few.
Marsch came in with a different game plan than all of his predecessors. He had the mentality that the Red Bulls didn't need a big name Designated Player to be successful. It would come from the hard work of all XI (and the bench) collectively. He decided the team will no longer sit back and have the action come to them. THEY would dictate the pace and press harder up field. It actually led to some goals early on until teams started adjusting for it. Captain Dax McCarty revealed in the team's second Town Hall that coach Marsch made all of the players track their sleeping, eating and exercise every day in an app.
And guess what? It all worked. The guys had great chemistry. They won the most games in the league (18), they gathered the most points (60) and they scored the most goals (62). They won the Supporter's Shield. Without a big name. Without a big payroll. Marsch deserves this Coach of the Year nomination.
Give credit to the players as well. Newcomers Sacha Kljestan, Felipe Martins and Mike Grella were all fantastic this season. Bradley Wright-Phillips reinvented himself as an all-around player instead of a striker in Thierry Henry's shadow. Dax McCarty, Lloyd Sam and Luis Robles continued where they left off in 2014. A once-cut center back in Damien Perrinelle teamed up with 19-year old Matt Miazga to shut down players like Sebastian Giovinco, Didier Drogba and David Villa. It was all part of Marsch's new scheme.
Oscar Pareja (FC Dallas) and Carl Robinson (Vancouver Whitecaps) have also been nominated for Coach of the Year. Pareja was also able to gather 60 points for his team in arguably the much tougher Western Conference, but missed the Shield due to goal differential with the Red Bulls (+13 vs. +19). Over the last two years, he is 34-22-12 (W-L-T), meaning he has won half of his games as FC Dallas' boss. Not bad.
Vancouver is the other team in the West that had a bye the first round of the playoffs. Carl Robinson has also been their leader for the past two seasons, gathering a 28-21-19 record. In each of his two seasons as coach, he has led his team to the Canadian Championship, therefore earning two straight CONCACAF Champions League berths for 2015-16 and 2016-17. The Whitecaps were tied with the Seattle Sounders for first in goals against this past season, only allowing 36 in their 34 games.
The winner for Coach of the Year will be announced on Tuesday November 24th. Good luck coach Marsch.