With Monday's stunning development that the New England Revolution and Steve Nicol had parted ways, talk immediately began of who would replace the iconic head coach. Not surprisingly, one of Nicol's longtime charges was one of the first names floated.
But Steve Ralston shot down any rumors of first contact with his old team on Tuesday, adding that the reports and rumor-mongering are the extent of the Dynamo assistant coach’s knowledge of the subject.
“When I came in this morning, some of the guys asked about it, but I just read it this morning and that’s all I know about it,” Ralston told the media after training Tuesday. “I played there for eight years, and I enjoyed my time there. But my job right now is to help this team prepare for the playoffs. I just feel really bad for [Nicol], and that’s all I’m thinking about it right now. He’s a good man and good coach, and I feel for him.”
The former Revolution stalwart is a logical candidate for the position. Ralston was a beloved member of the team and soccer community in New England, and a big reason the Revolution made it to four MLS Cup finals during his eight seasons with the Revolution. After retiring in 2010, Ralston replaced Portland Timbers head coach John Spencer on Houston’s staff. Since then, Ralston has worked with Dynamo head man Dominic Kinnear to not only improve the Dynamo, but work on Ralston’s nascent coaching skills.
“He’s more comfortable talking with the guys one-on-one and on the field [now],” Kinnear said. “Another good thing is the Reserve League gives these guys a chance to make decisions, and that’s been helpful. I think he feels more comfortable being a coach.”
Kinnear echoed Ralston's sentiments Tuesday, saying he was sad to see Nicol’s tenure end, and confirmed that New England has not contacted the club for permission to speak with Ralston, who is under contract. However, as with Spencer in the past, Kinnear and the Dynamo are not likely to prevent a coach from pursuing a head coaching position.
“If they were to ask us to talk to Steve, I don’t see us standing in the way,” Kinnear said.
Still, Ralston is focused on helping the Dynamo prepare for a run to the MLS Cup and, hopefully, a victory – something that eluded him during his playing days. So while the rumor mill has already started, Ralston is content to leave any talk of his Houston departure right there.
“I loved my time [in New England], and I love being here,” Ralston said. “That was my past, but this is my job now: to do whatever I can to help these guys. I would like to win the MLS Cup, and that’s my job here.”
Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com. Follow him on twitter at @Dynamoexaminer