The competition to be DC United's next head coach is heating up, and if Goff's hunches are correct, it may be nearing a close. With the list now narrowed down to just Curt Onalfo and Caleb Porter, with the possibility that other foreign coaches may also be considered, we will probably be hearing an official announcement early next week.
The choice between Onalfo and Porter is actually a pretty big one for the future of United. It's really sort of a philosophical choice. Hiring Onalfo could signal that the team wants to remain on the same track, because I don't think he will be much of a departure from our recent history. He's more of a safe bet, and a proven commodity. Hiring Porter though would be a signal that the club is willing to take on some risk. The 34-year old sensation could turn out to be the best thing to happen to DC United and US Soccer since Bruce Arena. Or he could turn out to be drastically unprepared for such a huge step to the next level.
Let's break it down. Curt Onalfo finished his stint in Kansas City with an overall record of 27-29-22, with two playoff appearances in three seasons. Not too shabby for a team that had not been to the playoffs the two years prior. Onalfo's first coaching experience was as an assistant in DC under Thomas Rongen, and then Ray Hudson, so he knows the club and what they stand for. You could say that he did moderately well with inferior talent in Kansas City, so he may do much better with the higher talent level that we currently have in DC.
But he really just seems like more of the same. And I don't think that's what the United fanbase is looking for after missing the playoffs the past two seasons. Sure, Onalfo could potentially get us into the playoffs. But even when he did manage to get KC into the playoffs, it was only as a 4 or 5 seed in the East. And his team only advanced to the Semi-finals once.
Curt Onalfo and Tom Soehn each coached from 2007-2009, and Kansas City did not have more wins than DC United in any of those seasons. This might not be much for proof that Onalfo will be any better or worse than Porter or any other coaching candidate. But I just don't see where Onalfo is really an improvement over Soehn. Which is kind of scary. I don't want to be battling for the last playoff spot the last weekend of the season for the third straight year. I want to be battling for home field advantage.
Does Caleb Porter give us that potential? Maybe. I really have no idea actually. What I do know is that whether as an assistant at Indiana or in the head spot at Akron since 2006, Porter has been a winner everywhere he's coached.
I watched a few Youtube videos of Akron soccer, and they seem to be a smart attack-oriented team. Quite a few of their goals may have been the result of poor goalkeeping or a few talented individual strikers, but many more were the result of quick passing, good positioning, and quality crosses.
One question that remains though for Porter is whether or not he can win the big one. Akron hasn't lost a game to a MAC opponent in over 3 years. Tomorrow night, Caleb Porter will be facing the biggest match of his young coaching career against UNC in Cary, NC in the College Cup Final Four. A win would prove that Porter has the ability to motivate his team to beat a historically superior opponent. His future might be riding on it.