With the Swope Park Rangers coming up a little short in the USL Cup final, their season has come to a close. With that it is time for head coach Marc Dos Santos to move on and continue his nomadic coaching journey out west. Dos Santos had accepted the head coaching position with the San Francisco Delta’s for next season earlier this year but waited till Swope Park finished the season before fully transitioning.
With Dos Santos heading out, we asked Sporting Kansas City head coach Peter Vermes at practice this week how the process was coming to find the replacement. “I already have somebody,” Vermes responded. “We will probably announce it in the near future but I’ve had them for a while.”
When it was revealed that Dos Santos would not return after the season, speculation was rampant about who Sporting Kansas City would bring in to replace him.
We immediately started making a list of possible candidates. Some were on the list the day it was announced and another has been added very recently. This is ranked roughly from least likely to most likely.
Coaching Candidates (Unlikely as some may be)
Preki – He is still a fan favorite in Kansas City and was successful in Sacramento. The former Wizards midfielder was a name that was thrown around a lot early. He did come back to USL but he signed with cross-state rival Saint Louis FC. He would probably have never came to the Swope Park Rangers for the same reason Dos Santos is leaving. Control, or the lack of full control. Any coach for the Rangers has to remember it is a reserve team and subject to the whims and needs of the first team and dedicated to the growth of the Academy. The coach will never know for sure who is available or who he has to play until they hear from the first team.
Jimmy Nielsen – The White Puma is still loved in Kansas City. When his OKC Energy played the Rangers at Swope Park there were more Nielsen autographs requested and hugs than anyone else. The Energy have been fairly successful and it is building for the future. OKC was a Sporting KC affiliate and is a Dallas FC affiliate now but that still affords a lot more control than being a true B team. So for the same reason Preki would not come to a B team, Nielsen probably wouldn’t either.
Brad Davis – Davis is the most recent name added to the list with the recent announcement he is retiring. He knows what Vermes wants and does want to stay involved in soccer but has already said the job was not for him, “maybe someday but not now.” Davis will likely join his brother coaching youth for KC Select while he experiments with the business world but do not be surprised if his name ends up on the list again.
Vlatko Andonovski - The very successful FC Kansas City and Kansas City Comets coach has already won two titles in the NWSL. He is used to coaching U.S. National Team players with World Cup and Olympic medals, would he be willing to step down to move to the male side of the coaching world? Probably not yet.
Paulo Nagamura – Paulo has NOT announced a retirement but it seems each year it is harder and harder to keep him on the field. Just nine games played and only six started shows how difficult it has been to keep him playing. Naga’s fierce determination and warrior mentality would make him a great example as a coach for the young guys. Definitely knows the system and Vermes has trust in him for sure.
Craig Rocastle – Former KC player still lives in the area and confessed he would like to do the job. “Rocky” has been coaching at the youth levels in Kansas and has produced some very good teams. With the focus of the Rangers being a bridge for the Academy to the first team there will likely be even more Academy players on the Rangers next year, youth to pro experience would be a good asset.
Josh Gardner – Similar to Rocastle, Gardner played for SKC and then went to coach youth. Josh has been coaching in SKC’s Academy and it could be a natural step up for him if he is ready.
Declan Jogi – An experienced youth coach before coming to Sporting KC’s Academy, he played in the USL and in Zimbabwe but not sure if he has desires to move up to the adult ranks.
Desmond Armstrong – Former National Team player was brought to Kansas City to coordinate and grow the Affiliates and his son Ezra is in the Academy and has made appearances for the Rangers as well. Armstrong would bring a wealth of experience but has not been coaching recently.
Jon Parry – The SKC Academy director would obviously know the youth and have a vested interest in bridging the gap to the first team but seems to be happy where he is and working with growing Futsal nationally.
Kerry Zavgnin – Assistant coach already for SKC and key part of the first team staff. Unlikely to take the step to the B team as coach unless something big changes. Probably waiting to take over Sporting KC when Vermes moves up to the U.S. National Team.
Zoran Savic – Ditto! Savic is also building up Sporting Lees Summit and seem pretty happy where he is.
John Pascarella – Ditto again? JP is a big part of that staff and is great with veterans and younger players. Could he be the one that wants to step out to a head coaching role?
Mike Jacobs – Mike was a big part of the success of the Rangers this year, bringing a number of players in to the team as the assistant Technical Director. Mike also coached at the University of Evansville that helped produce Rangers rookie Mark Anthony Gonzalez.
Brian Bliss – He is the Director of Player Personnel and brings a ton of experience coaching to the table. He has been involved at every level of the game from player to coach to technical director. For SKC he has also coached the unofficial U-23 team of mostly former Academy players currently in college to keep them Homegrown eligible and to evaluate their talents. Would be a natural fit and seems to already work well with Vermes and the first team staff.
Nikola Popovic – Came to Kansas City from Benifica B in Portugal and was a big part of the success of the Rangers. Dos Santos often credited him with helping turn around the back line. Watching him coach at practice and seeing how well he taught both Academy and older players makes him obvious candidate. The connection to Benifica and the possibility of bringing more players like Kevin Oliveira across to Kansas City is a plus as well.
Somebody else – When the Rangers were formed it was assumed by many that one of the assistants would probably get the job and we were all wrong. Vermes went out and got one of the best coaches not in MLS (better than many of those) to be the first head coach of the Rangers. Could he do it again?
Who on this list will get the job? Or will it be some coach that we don’t know or would have never expected? Did we miss a good candidate?