The Houston Dynamo wanted to go in a new direction after parting ways with longtime manager Dominic Kinnear, and they're doing just that by hiring Owen Coyle to replace him. Coyle hasn't managed in more than a year and bucks the trend in MLS of hiring players who once played in the league. More than anything, Coyle has absolutely no experience in MLS, something that has been a death blow to many foreign managers.
MLS has a unique structure. Things like a draft, homegrown rules, allocation, discovery claims and a salary cap don't exist elsewhere in the world, so people who are unfamiliar with the league have trouble sorting it all out and building quality teams. There are some exceptions, like Gary Smith, who won the league with the Colorado Rapids in 2010.
The league has changed in recent years, with more money available making intimate knowledge of the American soccer system not as important as it was before. Clubs also have more money and resources, allowing them to build better front offices that are more equipped to help a foreign manager transition to the league.
So where does that leave Coyle?
We obviously have no idea what he said in interviews and what about his personality, approach and plan made the Dynamo believe he can succeed. We also do not know how the club plans to help him transition, what his responsibilities will be and how the balance of power will be sorted out. Overall, it is tough to say.
Coyle gained notoriety when he earned Burnley promotion to the Premier League in 2009. It was Burnley's first stint in the first division for 33 years, but before the end of their first season in the league, Coyle had jumped ship to Bolton. Coyle's Bolton side were excellent early on and he was considered one of England's brightest managers, but then came the fall. Bolton bottomed out and Coyle presided over relegation to the Championship. After struggling in the second division, Coyle was sacked. He eventually joined Wigan, but that proved to be a short stint and he has been jobless since last December.
It has been a rocky last few years for Coyle. He's been characterized as a manager who can give his teams a jolt, but who fades fast and can't maintain success. Once hailed as a managing great, he has struggled to get a decent gig. Now he's in Houston, where he will be the club's second manager ever. Kinnear led the team to two MLS Cups and two other finals, establishing himself as one of the best managers in the league. He was born in Scotland, but grew up in the U.S., played in MLS and was an assistant coach in the league before taking over as manager.
Coyle will not have the same familiarity that Kinnear did with the league. He will once again test the ability of foreign managers to succeed in a league as odd as MLS, but the Dynamo believe he can do it. They think he has what it takes or that they can provide him the support to make the move work. More likely, they believe both, and they're taking a big chance that what they believe will come good because he is not in the mold of Jason Kreis, Jay Heaps, Caleb Porter, or even Bruce Arena or Sigi Schmid. Hiring Coyle is going in a very different direction than the rest of MLS.