Reasons to smile: Robin Fraser is back in Southern California and installed in his first head coaching job (Photo courtesy Chivas USA).
For an MLS team such as Chivas USA that saw in just one year the foundation carefully laid by former coaches Bob Bradley and Preki ripped asunder, stability is what’s needed more than anything else.
The club has made the first step in that direction by hiring former Galaxy defenders – and members of the Real Salt Lake coaching staff – Robin Fraser and Greg Vanney
The pair are long-time friends and colleagues – they coached a Southern California youth soccer team together – and are among the most measured and considered observers of the game around.
That was evident when Vanney retired from the Galaxy and gave a nuanced analysis of the league at his final press conference as a player.
And it was obvious Wednesday as the pair explained their relationship and thoughts on the game.
“I’m joining him (on the club’s coaching staff) because philosophically we’re right in line with each other in terms of player development, team development and philosophy and all those types of things,” Vanney said. “We’ve talked soccer and played soccer (for) many, many years.
“We’ve actually coached soccer together and done lots of things together so we kind of knew this opportunity would come – we just didn’t know when, we didn’t know where. So here we are with a huge opportunity in front of us. We will have to remold and reshape the team a little bit. I think there’s some good pieces, as Robin mentioned, to work with. It’s getting them in their right places and getting them to understand their opportunities and their roles.
“The foundation of every team has to be solid defending,” added Vanney when asked if a coaching staff of former defenders would emphasize defense over offense. “It’s much easier to prevent goals than it is to score goals, so you have to start by considering that, I think. And then it all kind of ties together. You want to defend with energy. You want to attack with a lot of mobility and transition quickly into defending and looking to win the ball back as quickly as possible.
Fraser displayed a similar capability to communicate his approach to the game:
“So many people don’t understand that the essence of creating a good team is creating a cohesive team – it’s to get everyone on the same page in terms of philosophy (and figuring out) what are we trying to do.
“The worse teams are when you have 11 different ideas going on, on the field. Because of that you’re porous. So the key is be cohesive in your thoughts, attacking and defending. … I’ve put into practice and seen that if you get a team on the same page, you get them thinking cohesively, you do all of these things right, results take care of themselves.”
Fraser, who leaves today for the annual MLS Combine in Florida, addressed how he will begin to rebuild the club:
“There are specific needs. When you get to be an elite team in this league you can be a little position specific, but when you’re rebuilding you are looking for great soccer players. You have ideas about positions you might like, but at the end of the day if there’s someone there who is a phenomenal player at (Chivas USA’s draft position number) four I think you take him regardless.
“At this point, honestly, everything is on the board, which is what I said to the coaching staff Monday. No scenario is ridiculous. Throw everything out, we’re going to look at everything. We want to explore every option. We want to be as thorough as possible in making decisions. So, is there a trade out there with a player better than we’re going to get (in the draft)? Possibly.”
One thing is for certain, Fraser sounded very happy to see his career come full circle and return to where it started in MLS – Southern California – with a former teammate with the inaugural Galaxy team back in 1996:
“It was funny. (Interim General Manager) Jose sat there and said I don’t know many faces in the crowd and I’m going, I sure do.
“It’s great. I’m excited. I really, really loved Park City, I had a great time there – I didn’t live in Salt Lake City – I lived in Park City. But as this opportunity started to unfold and the thought of coming back here – I have so many friends here – (former Galaxy defender) Dan Calichman came to the press conference today just as a sign of support and (former Galaxy forward) John Garvey called me this morning. I have a number of good friends and good relationships here and great memories.
“It’s interesting. I was part of the group that petitioned the community around here to allow this Home Depot Center to be built while I was still a Galaxy player and I was never able to play here – I was gone before Home Depot Center was built. So it’s interesting, life is funny and it’s a small world to find myself back here firmly being a part of the Home Depot Center.”
In other soccer news:
*U.S. Women’s National Team stalwart Kristine Lilly has finally retired.
*The Galaxy’s Landon Donovan won Futbol de Primera’s Player of the Year award, making him the only seven time winner of the award given annually to the top U.S. national team player.
And yes, I was one of 200 participating journalists. And yes, I voted for Donovan. Michael Bradley finished second and Clint Dempsey third in the voting.
Personally, I voted for Tim Howard since he was one of the two main reasons (Donovan was the other) the U.S. advanced as far as it did in the World Cup.
*Long-time South bay resident and Seattle Sounders FC Coach Sigi Schmid will receive the Walt Chyzowych Memorial Fund Lifetime Achievement Award for 2011 on Jan. 15 in Baltimore at the National Soccer Coaches Association of America convention.
“From the early days of the US Soccer West Coast Coaching Schools, where I first met and worked with Walt Chyzowych, I was inspired by his leadership, love for the game and confidence in American coaches,” said Schmid, who has the most wins as a coach in MLS history. “I have endeavored to be a positive role model like Walter. Just as he gave freely of himself to this great sport, I have strived to do the same.”
“My hope is that the players and staff with whom I served will join me in sharing our knowledge, the stories, and the subtle nuances that help us all see the beauty of this game and what it can become in America,” he added. “I am most pleased, humbled and honored by this award.”
Chyzowych is a former U.S. national team coach.
Congratulations to Donovan and Schmid worthy winners and class acts.