If you’re a fan of a team, any team, you know that everyone associated with that team has their limits when it comes to success or the lack thereof. Some owners are far more patient than others. Just look at the Denver Nuggets and their road to becoming the NBA Champions this season.
While most American teams and leagues tend to give managers a wide berth when it comes to building a team and stepping out measurable success, the same can’t be said for the world of soccer. Across the beautiful game, managers are regularly let go within two years of a contract due to a lack of success.
The Premier League is guilty of this. To be fair though, there’s a lot more at stake in the Premier League and the English Football Pyramid than there is in the US Soccer Pyramid. (It’s more like an exclamation point, but that’s a discussion for another day.) In England and other foreign football associations, the clubs have to worry about promotion and relegation throughout the pyramid. Even if you manage to stay up in the Premier League, you’re fighting for further glory and opportunities in European competitions, like the Champions League. Clubs fire their managers for not making it to the Champions League in consecutive seasons. Short-term managers are often brought in to help stave off relegation. Sam Allardyce has made quite the bankroll doing, or attempting to do, just that.
In the MLS and USL however, there is no threat of relegation. There is no joy of promotion. Only bragging rights, the US Open Cup, and the CONCACAF Champions League are there for attainment. Managers are often given longer leashes by management, only making changes when it becomes absolutely necessary. Look at New York Red Bulls this season. Less than a third of the way into their season, the manager left and the ownership elevated former New Mexico United Head Coach Troy Lesesne to fill that role. With that change, Lesesne will be given a lot of leeway as they try to finish out their season, and may even get a new contract for his efforts.
Looking even closer to home, New Mexico United is in only its fifth year as a competitive entity and is already on its third manager.
The problem here is that the club has been successful. In the first three seasons of its existence, Troy Lesesne led United to two playoff berths and had a run to the quarterfinals of the US Open Cup. Lesesne left because a new opportunity came calling, see the paragraph above for a refresher. Even with that success, supporters griped and complained through all three seasons.
#TroyOut became prominent on social media beginning in his season at the helm. The popularity of the tag grew in season three. There was a call across social media for Troy to be let go. Fans have every right to voice their opinions, but to call for the firing of a guy who had a pretty decent record can go too far.
By the numbers, Troy had a 40% winning percentage in all competitive matches, 36-26-27. (For the sake of argument, I’m considering advancing in the Open Cup a win.) In USL League play, Troy’s club went 31-26-24, in which they picked up a positive result, either a win or a draw, in 70% of the matches played. Where things went wrong was that the club struggled to close out matches and without a doubt couldn’t play from behind.
After his departure, United President and Owner turned to then-assistant Zach Prince to take the helm. Employing a tactical style that many dubbed “Troy 1.5”, Prince faced almost immediate backlash on social media. #PrinceOut and #SackZach become prevalent on United fan pages. But, was Zach’s tenure really that bad?
Turning to the numbers once again, Zach’s competitive record was 18-16-14, or a 37.5% win rate. When looking at USL League play, Zach’s club earned a positive result in 68.8% of matches played. Not all that different from Troy. But, fans weren’t happy. They felt that the results weren’t there and the team wasn’t performing.
So, after a slower start to 2023 and a job offer from MLS and his former boss, Prince opted to leave. For the second time in under 18 months, United was back in the coaching market. And they were having to do it in the middle of the season.
On Tuesday, June 16, United announced that they had found their man for the future. Eric Quill, formerly with North Texas SC, FC Dallas, and Columbus Crew was in. While his professional head coaching experience is limited to his time at North Texas, his record proved that he could get results. In his tenure at North Texas, he won an impressive 78% of his matches and develop players like Ronaldo Damus and the PSV Eindhoven bound, and USMNT, star Ricardo Pepi. This could bode very well for United going forward.
Historically, clubs tend to experience a bounce when there’s a managerial change. Peter and the rest of the ownership group didn’t take this search lightly and believed they’d found their man for the future. The fans, however, will always be skeptics until proven wrong, and even then, they will still complain. For now though, United went outside of their own ecosystem to find the man they felt was the right fit.
Now, it’s time for Coach Quill to make his mark on this club.