When the Houston Dynamo hired Owen Coyle in December 2014 as the franchise’s next head coach, they didn't think they'd be looking for his replacement 12 games into his second season.
Yet, late Wednesday night, the Dynamo announced that the team and Coyle had mutually parted ways. Coyle cited the long distance between him and his family in the United Kingdom as the reason why.
“Coyle leaves with a very strong relationship with the organization,” said Dynamo VP/General Manager Matt Jordan told reporters on a conference call on Thursday. “It was a mutual parting of ways. There’s a lot of factors that factored in to what took place over the last 24 hours.”
Jordan said it will be Sunday at the earliest before the team announces who will be its interim coach for the rest of the season. With two-thirds of the season remaining, Jordan said naming an interim coach gives the organization time to find the right candidate for the long term.
Rumors surfaced midday Thursday that Wilmer Cabrera — current head coach of the Dynamo’s USL affiliate Rio Grande Valley FC — had been given the position. But Jordan refuted them, saying the organization is solely focused on Saturday’s matchup against Vancouver (5 p.m. CT, ROOT SPORTS) for the moment.
“We have to move forward,'' Jordan said. "The way I look at this is, right now we have 22 games yet to be played and that’s 66 points on the table. We’re a highly competitive organization and the way we see it is we have everything to play for going forward.”
After the decision was made Wednesday to part ways with Coyle, the team and staff were gathered later that night to announce the news.
“It was nice to see the admiration that all the players demonstrated,” said Jordan, who was hired in November 2014.
The season started well enough for Coyle and the Dynamo, with 11 goals scored in the first three games (a win, a draw and a loss). But a disastrous April — one point from four games — saw them slide to last place in the Western Conference. In 12 games this season, the Dynamo have 11 points and a record of 3-7-2, bringing Coyle’s overall record in Houston to 14-21-11.
Would Coyle still be the coach if the Dynamo were winning?
“We’re 12 games into the season and we’ve had some good performances … we’ve had some heartbreaking results,” said Jordan. “If we’re higher up in the standings … on a personal level, it probably makes it a little bit easier being away from your family.”
Before Wednesday’s chat with Coyle, Jordan said that there hadn’t been any indication that the coach was feeling homesick.
Coyle — who Jordan said was not living in a hotel as was rumored — becomes another international coach who failed to conquer MLS, perhaps because of an inability to adapt to the North American soccer culture. Jordan, though, did his best to downplay that angle.
“There have been some foreign coaches that have had success in the MLS, so that doesn’t mean that that’s not possible,” said Jordan. “Saying that, MLS is a very unique league in the world of soccer with all the rules, regulations, the salary cap structure, the structure of the CBA, and the player’s union. So it is a unique league.”
While the Coyle experiment didn’t pan out for Houston, Jordan learned something from the process as the Dynamo begin looking for their next head coach.
“It’ll be fair to say that we would look at probably candidates with more North American [soccer] experience,” said Jordan. “But we’re not going limit ourselves, and if there’s a good foreign candidate there, then we’ll look at that as well.”