With the Colorado Rapids hiring Oscar Pareja as their new head coach on Thursday, the trend of promoting an assistant to head coach in MLS just became even more fashionable.
Pareja takes the reins at Colorado after five years as an assistant at FC Dallas. The Colombian's hiring takes the number of former assistant coaches who are currently head coaches of a different MLS side to four. John Spencer, Robin Fraser and Frank Yallop have all gone down the same route as Pareja, spreading their wings and flying the nest to somewhere else.
Hugely successful MLS coaches such as Bob Bradley and Dave Sarachan have shown that moving away from familiar surroundings can be a recipe for trophies and truimph. A change of scenery for a head coaching role can be the making of many coaches, and Pareja must be hoping this fresh start will put him on the road to a successful career as a head coach in MLS.
Here is the lowdown on how five former MLS assistant coaches have fared after leaving one MLS side to take the head coaching job with another.
The fiery Scotsman was a standout player with the Colorado Rapids, and proved just as successful as an assistant coach with the Houston Dynamo. He won two MLS Cups with Houston and also coached their reserve side to the 2008 MLS Reserve League title. So it wasn’t too much of a surprise when Spencer was given the head coaches position at Portland after proving his worth with another side.
The Timbers' first MLS season saw Spencer stamp his authority on the side, and they finished with a respectable 11-14-9 record, missing out narrowly on making the MLS Cup Playoffs. Their hard-working, attacking philosophy won them fans across the league, and Spencer's success away from Houston could be just beginning.
After serving as an assistant for the Tampa Bay Mutiny, Yallop moved onto D.C. United in 2000 to become their chief assistant coach. The former Ipswich Town player did not stay as an assistant for long, earning the head coach’s job at San Jose in 2001. There he flourished, winning the franchise's first MLS Cup in his first season in charge, and then he won it again in 2003. Spells in charge of the LA Galaxy and the Canadian national team followed before his return as a head coach of the Earthquakes in 2008.
Yallp has posted a 95-95-69 all-time MLS record, good enough for sixth on the all-time list of wins for head coaches.
Fraser proved his worth as an assistant with Real Salt Lake from 2007-10, helping them win MLS Cup 2009 after finishing up his playing career with Columbus in 2005. Fraser was handed the head coaching job at Chivas USA in January 2011, and he's shown signs of promise in his brief head coaching stint thus far.
His head coaching record of 8-14-12 will need to be improved upon in 2012, however, if he is to go on and prove a long-term success.
Sarachan joined up as one of D.C. United’s assistants in 1997. He was hired by former D.C. boss Bruce Arena originally but stayed on when Thomas Rongen was given the job in D.C., and helped United to win MLS Cup '99 before leaving to be Arena’s assistant again with the US national team. Sarachan then ventured to Chicago in 2002 and took to his first head coaching job in new surroundings like a duck to water, winning the Supporters’ Shield and the US Open Cup in his first season.
He won two more US Open Cups with the Fire and helped produce several young stars such as Carlos Bocanegra and DaMarcus Beasley before leaving in 2007. He is currently the associate head coach with the Galaxy teamed up once again with — who else? — Arena.
Bradley learned the trade under the stewardship of Arena at D.C United., and never looked back. He won the MLS Cup with D.C. United in 1996 and 1997 as an assistant before going out on his own with expansion side Chicago in 1998. He proved an instant success, winning the MLS and US Open Cup double in his first season in charge. He won the 2000 US Open Cup with Chicago before leaving in 2003 for the MetroStars. He also had a brief stint in charge of Chivas USA in 2006, before coaching the US national team from 2006 until last summer.
His all-time record as a head coach (124-94-54) gives him the third most wins of any MLS head coach.