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Across the Pond: Owen Coyle "brought out the best" in his players in promotion run

The Dynamo trended on Twitter in the United Kingdom thanks to Tuesday’s announcement of Owen Coyle as the club’s new coach.

That and the copious amount of media coverage the news has generated across the pond are signs of the name recognition Coyle has after he took an underdog Burnley side into the English Premier League then led low-budget Bolton Wanderers to two mid-table finishes and a place in the semifinals of the FA Cup.

Coyle first generated serious buzz as a manager in 2009 when he turned Burnley, an historic small-town club near Manchester, from a mediocre second-division team into Premier League members in the space of 18 months. He’d been appointed partly on a recommendation from Alex McLeish, then the Scotland manager, and marshaled Burnley into the top level for the first time in 33 years despite one of the smallest playing budgets in the second division.

At the time a BBC reporter described Coyle’s work ethic as “enthusiasm translated into dedication” — two qualities he’s pledged to bring to his Texas task as the Dynamo look towards 2015 and their first-ever season without Dominic Kinnear at the helm.

As well as for winning promotion, Coyle’s Burnley earned plaudits for the adventurous way they played. The Scot also implemented his fast passing style at Bolton, who’d previously been known for more direct tactics, and was entrusted by Arsenal and Chelsea to develop on loan two precocious youngsters who became regular England internationals: Jack Wilshere and Daniel Sturridge, who is now at Liverpool.

The 48-year-old most recently managed former Premier League club and 2013 FA Cup winners Wigan Athletic in a six-month spell that ended last December but saw Coyle manage the team for several group games in the Europa League. He said on Tuesday that he turned down six or seven coaching opportunities while he waited for the right move.

“I can see Owen Coyle doing really well in MLS. He’s always struck me as a very positive, glass-half-full kind of man, and the Burnley team he took into the Premier League, and the way they attacked the top flight, was very refreshing,” Peter Lansley, who covered many of Coyle’s matches for The Times of London, told HoustonDynamo.com.

“They were the smallest team in the English top flight by some distance, yet Coyle sent them out believing they had nothing to lose and everything to gain. The whole country seemed to get behind them when they beat Manchester United in their first home game, and Robbie Blake was granted iconic status at Turf Moor after scoring the winner. Then they went and beat Everton in the next game, when Wade Elliott, a skillful winger who had emerged from the lower divisions, was an appropriate match-winner.

“Coyle brought the best out of these types of players, and Steven Fletcher gave him the target man’s presence off which they could build. They played an enterprising high-tempo game and, even though they went on to be relegated that season, Burnley always played with heart, and in many ways performed above their level.”

Asked by HoustonDynamo.com for the key to Coyle’s success at Burnley, Suzanne Geldard, who reports on the club for the Lancashire Telegraph, said it was down to “Motivation and man-management. The bulk of the key pieces were in place but Coyle came in with a confidence injection. He made everyone feel 10 feet tall, like they could take on the best players in the world and win, and that translated into how they played.

“The cup run in the promotion season was perhaps the best example of that, but the playoff final too. They had so much belief that they could win, the squad was tight-knit and the players worked hard for each other. Much of that was down to Coyle.”

Before they beat Sheffield United at Wembley Stadium in the promotion playoff final, Burnley embarked on a memorable run in the League Cup, ousting Fulham, Chelsea and Arsenal before exiting in the semifinals to Tottenham Hotspur after extra time.

His energy and attack-minded principles won’t have altered during his flight across the Atlantic: they’re a part of his character and his soccer DNA. But as one of relatively few foreign managers in MLS, Coyle knows there will be a learning curve as he adjusts to a new league with unfamiliar challenges such as unique player transfer rules, extensive traveling and summer heat. Still, he arrives with plenty of admiration for the American way.

“Owen has a true respect and appreciation for Major League Soccer, that’s s a critical starting point. And he’s a very humble person and he knows there’s a lot of work to be done. That starting point, that foundation about respect for the game in North America and for Major League Soccer is critical, it’s paramount,” Matt Jordan told reporters.

Hired last month in the new role of vice president/general manager, the former Montreal Impact technical director’s knowledge of the league’s players and processes is sure to be a vital resource for Coyle as he plans for a strong first year in charge with the Dynamo back in the Western Conference.

“We’ll be working closely on a daily basis on everything involved with the club … something I pride myself on is helping those around me be successful,” said Jordan.

“I think the most important starting point is you surround yourself with good people. First and foremost Owen is a person of strong character and a very good person and that sense of having a positive working relationship was evident from the start. We’re very excited about what the future holds.”

Tom Dart is a contributing writer to HoustonDynamo.com and HoustonDashSoccer.com. Former editor and reporter for The Times of London and reporter for SI.com, Dart currently freelances for The Guardian.