It’s unlikely, shocking, mystifying and mind-boggling but the Red Bulls are still alive in the East. Despite the bad performances and endless draws, a strong finish would see New York into the playoffs and could even vault them to the top of the conference. The Red Bulls can thank the inconsistency of their Eastern rivals for their continued survival and nobody should be more grateful than the much maligned duo of Hans Backe and Erik Soler.
The Scandinavian partnership at the helm of the Red Bulls listing ship will likely retain their jobs if the team is able to scratch their way into the postseason. Backe and Soler have bungled this season badly and the prospect of the team’s future remaining in their hands is dubious.
For the two men a return to school would do wonders for their careers. At the MLS Academy of Excellence they can receive an extensive education in all things MLS and American soccer. As their adviser I’ve created a curriculum that should prepare them for a successful MLS future. If they are good students, take their lessons seriously and do their homework in the offseason they may yet be able to salvage their GPAs.
MLS 101: An Introduction to MLS, its players and its teams
Professor: Bruce Arena
Prerequisite: A debut season defined by quick success which engenders a false sense of comfort and encourages corner cutting (in a recent column on bigapplesoccer.com, Michael Lewis cited a source who questioned Backe’s knowledge of MLS).
Course Description: An introduction to Major League Soccer and its teams and players. MLS 101 will utilize game film extensively to build a deep knowledge of tactical tendencies of future opponents. The knowledge any coach in any league should have prior to taking a position. This class is geared towards those with only the most rudimentary understanding of American soccer.
MGMT 101: The salary cap and its implications on roster building
Professor: Peter Nowak
Prerequisite: Wasting cap space on players like Brian Neilson and Carl Robinson who don’t contribute to the team in any way.
Description: This course will explore the implications of the salary cap on creating a competitive roster in MLS. Case studies will play a large role and the class will draw on the long list of highly paid busts in New York soccer history. Special attention will be paid to the value of foreign veterans in comparison to cheaper and younger Americans. While foreign players such as Joel Lindpere, Teemu Tainio and Jan Gunnar Solli can prove to be worthwhile signings, often versatile Americans like Jeremy Hall, Jeff Parke and Carlos Mendes can fill positions longer and for less money.
DRAMA 101: The importance of the supporting cast
Professor: Mike Petke
Prerequisite: Focusing on acquiring big names players and neglecting role players
Course Description: This course focuses on the use of role players and less glamorous players in MLS. The importance of big name Designated Player will be analyzed extensively. The 2010 Red Bulls season will be used as a case study. In that season Rafa Marquez and Thierry Henry arrived late and unfit to play and so success was achieved on the backs of lesser known players such as Lindpere, Dane Richards and Tim Ream. The goal of this class is to achieve the perfect balance between headline nabbing stars and hard working support players.
MGMT 202: Bench and reserves management
Professor: Sigi Schmid TA: Austin da Luz
Prerequisite: Decimating your bench through one sided trades; Publicly criticizing your bench and its lack of talent; failing to provide opportunities for bench players to improve; using an incomplete gameday roster to teach reserves a lesson
Course Description: Back ups are a key component of any sports team and this course will look at their importance in MLS. The importance of creating competition between reserves and starters to avoid complacency will also be discussed. As will the need for competent backups on a veteran –heavy side. The course will stress the importance of developing young bench players so they can contribute in a meaningful way.
PSYCH 101: Competitiveness and the desire to win everything
Professor: South Ward
Prerequisite: Sending a reserve team without the head coach or assistant coach to slaughter against a full side Chicago Fire in the US Open Cup.
Course Description: This course will navigate the rationale of forfeiting meaningful competitions when your franchise has previously failed to win trophies of any kind. The course will also deconstruct the theory of prioritizing exhibition tournaments over historic cup competitions. Members of the New York fanbase will act as guest speakers to discuss the mental anguish caused by an empty trophy case and the desire to win a real trophy – any real trophy.
MGMT 303: Core players, consistency and success
Professor: Jason Kreis
Prerequisite: Blowing up the roster after a successful season where the team went from last place to the top of the Eastern Conference.
Course Description: Throughout the history of MLS successful teams have employed a variety of tactics, player types and coaching styles, but the one constant factor in determining success in MLS is consistency. This course we lay out an offseason plan to upgrade the team while keeping the core intact. The professor will advocate selling deadweight and bringing in solid bench players to compete with the starting XI. He will discourage wholesale replacements of the starting squad.
Note: Semester begins in early November (If the season ends after the last league match, the pupils will be expelled)
It’s a tough curriculum for sure, but after neglecting their studies for two years Backe and Soler need a rigorous routine to avoid flunking. Both Backe and Soler showed they had talent last year and though this season has been miserable, their MLS careers are salvageable. If this year’s mistakes are taken as lessons for the future, the Red Bulls could avoid another painful cycle of coaching changes and turnover