Philadelphia Union – the plots thickens – Vartughian pushed out as well…

In case you missed it Philadelphia Union also sacked Rob Vartughian yesterday – one day after Hackworth got the boot.

Vartughian was an Assistant Coach and Technical Director.

I’m not sure what the Philadelphia Union organization means by calling someone a Technical Director but it’s my guess it has something to do with behind the scenes player performance and analysis – in scanning the list of names and titles working within the Front Office, for the Union, it doesn’t appear this organization has a branch called Player Performance and Statistical Analysis.  Maybe I missed it?

If Vartughian had responsibilities in this area perhaps he was sacked because he felt and thought the decision to remove John Hackworth was wrong/odd?

And if you read my analysis on Hackworth being sacked you’ll know my feelings and thoughts on that as well; my objective information continues to suggest that the Front Office decision was odd.

Now perhaps I’m way off target, but here’s some quotes from Nick Sakiewicz in an article recently published by the Philadelphia Union when asked about the sacking of John Hackworth…

“Honestly, up to that point (Saturday), I hadn’t thought about it,” Sakiewicz said. “I was 100 percent in John’s corner and we were trying to figure out a way together how we were going to get some three-point games under our belt. Saturday night was a big disappointment. I know it was great entertainment for you guys and TV with three unanswered goals to get a point. But again, I go back to our fans. They don’t deserve ties at home. They deserve victories.”

My take – while what he’s saying at the end is true I’m not sure I follow his logic throughout the sequence of what he said.

For me, if you’re running a team and you make a decision that will change the tenor and style of your team (that will also require a moderate change in player personnel, as well as some coaching staff) it usually means a reinvestment and redirection of money.

I would offer it’s a bit dubious to expect people to believe “Honestly, up to that point (Saturday) I hadn’t thought about it”

Another view – if Sakiewicz is really telling the truth, and that decision was made after that weekend of soccer, doesn’t it strike an odd chord that the Front Office reaction is a bit short-sighted?

Isn’t it reasonable to expect that an MLS franchise would have a long range business model that incorporates a tactical and strategic vision the organization wants to drive towards?

And if they weren’t driving towards a more possession-based style (as the data indicates) wouldn’t their be an expectation that it may take a bit longer to get there given the current player skill base?

But this isn’t the first time a Head Coach has been sacked mid-season.

Last year San Jose did the same thing to Frank Yallop.

His team performance indicators also seemed to point towards a more possession-based approach in lieu of a direct attacking approach.

Yallop got sacked and Mark Watson replaced him – for the rest of the year San Jose went right back to playing a direct style of soccer.

And do so this year as well…  Where is San Jose now?  Are they better off or worse off – hard to tell but they only have 16 points after 13 games played.

Sakiewicz goes on to offer these thoughts a bit later…

“We’re looking for experience,” Sakiewicz said. “We’re looking for a coach that has been there, done that, that has won and knows how to win championships in the modern MLS. We’ve got to have coaches and technical staff that can compete at that level, deal with the fan pressure, deal with the media pressure, because it’s not MLS of 10 years ago.”

Odd isn’t it that Sakiewicz indicates he wants a Head Coach who knows how to win in the modern MLS.

Again, for most, that’s probably a reference towards driving to an organizational vision that supports a possession-based style more than a direct attacking style.

And, as noted earlier, that is exactly the type of team performance indicators that Philadelphia has transitioned towards, this year, compared to last year.

An interesting injection in this quote is “We’ve got to have coaches and technical staff that compete at that level, deal with fan pressure, deal with the media pressure”.

Is Sakiewicz really saying that John Hackworth was sacked because he couldn’t deal with the fan and media pressure?

Or… is Sakiewicz really saying he’s allowing his organization, and the collective long range strategy of his organization, to be influenced by ‘poor dealings with media or fans’?

Or… is Sakiewicz saying the Front Office is having a hard time dealing with fan and media pressure and in order to alleviate that pressure they are sacking John Hackworth?  As cynical as it may sound it’s probably this one (door #3 Monty Hall)…

In closing…

If anything, I’d offer that article, the quotes within, and the combined actions of the last few days, send conflicting signals and should be a warning sign for other Head Coaches who might consider working for this organization.

I’d also offer there are significant communication issues between what is said (tactically and strategically) off the pitch versus how the team performs (tactically and strategically) on the pitch…

If this team were in Europe it is likely they would be relegated and punished for poor business acumen, but I’ll defer discussion on the relegation/promotion topic for another time.

Best, Chris