In recent years, the MLS Coach of the Year award seems to have taken on a new form. Voters seem to have decided that it's more of an overachiever award than one about accomplishments. Just once in the past five years as the award gone to the coach who led his team to the Supporters' Shield, and that year (2008) it was mainly because Sigi Schmid led the Columbus Crew to the top of the table one year after the team had missed the playoffs.
I don't think the team with the best record automatically has the coach who did the best job, but it seems as though that has almost become a disqualification for the award in recent years. Prior to 2006, three straight Shield winning coaches had won the award, which seems to indicate a changing mindset.
Using the current mindset, the leading candidates are probably Peter Nowak and Robert Warzycha, two coaches of playoff-bound teams that either engineered impressive turnarounds (the Union missed the playoffs last year) or exceeded expectations (the Crew were largely rebuilt this year). The problem is, neither of their teams are actually very good. The Union have the league's fifth best record, while the Crew have the seventh best record.
There are two coaches with teams at the top of the table who would make much more deserving winners: Bruce Arena and Sigi Schmid.
Arena is a classic example of making the most with the most, but as Hans Backe has shown us with the New York Red Bulls, that's not always so easy. Yes, Arena's team is the league's most expensive, but it's also one of the best in league history, claiming 67 points, winning 19 matches and going undefeated at home. He's also had to juggle numerous competitions while sharing several players with national teams.
Schmid has managed to lead the Sounders to 60 points despite having one of his Designated Players leave the team just hours before the season opener, losing arguably his best offensive player to a season-ending injury and guiding his team through a MLS-high 46 all-competition matches.
Both Arena and Schmid have previously won this award, but seem to almost be taken for granted. This year, they simply can't be ignored.