Chris Armas took over the New York Red Bulls on July 6th. In less than a month, Armas became a polarizing figure. He is five games into his MLS tenure, and based on reactions on social media, he is either doing an adequate job, or is the worst coach to ever coach in MLS.
Hyperbole is a familiar tool for sports fans. Fandom is passion, passion is, at times, irrational. Red Bull fans upset with the direction of the club under Armas are critical of the results. But where does Armas measure up against all of the coaches in Red Bulls’ history.
How does Armas measure up after five games?
First, an explanation. This data is only representative of the first five MLS matches for each coach mentioned. Coaches were ranked by “coach points”. Coach points are defined as the number of points earned in a match plus goal differential. If the coaches had the same number of coach points, goal differential and wins were used as the tie-breakers.
*Please note that prior to 1999, there were no draws in MLS
Let’s take a look:
16. Octavio Zombrano
-2 Coach points
Zombrano is still the Metro leader in points per game, registering a 1.72 mark. He won the Eastern Conference in his first season in charge, but could never get the team over the hump in the playoffs. Still, Zombrano helped nurture two very prominent players during his tenure, Tim Howard and Clint Mathis. All that pedigree doesn’t save his disastrous first five games. Zambrano could only find a single win in that run, and held a -5 goal differential.
15. Carlos Queiroz
1 coach point
Queiroz did well enough, taking over for Eddie Firmani mid season, and guiding the MetroStars into the playoffs. A first round playoff loss to D.C. United all but sealed his fate. Queiroz went on to have a solid career, managing Real Madrid, Portugal, and Iran at the international level. He also spent two stints as an assistant at Manchester United during the reign of Sir Alex Ferguson. In Queiroz’s first five matches, he held a 2-3-0 record with a -5 goal differential.
14. Eddie Firmani
2 Coach Points
The less said about Firmani the better. What should have been a slam dunk soured fast for Firmani, leaving after eight matches in which the MetroStars managed only three wins. Two of those wins came in his first five matches in charge. Firmani had a record of 2-3-0 with a -4 goal differential.
13. Richie Williams 1.0
2 Coach Points
Williams took over for Mo Johnston during the season as the Red Bulls worked to bring in Bruce Arena. Williams remained an assistant with club, and ultimately took over as an interim manager again after the departure of Juan Carlos Osorio. In his first stint, Williams collected a modest 1-3-1 record with -2 goal differential.
12. Carlos Alberto parreira
2 coach points
Parreira is a legendary Brazilian manager. He had managed professionally for 30 years when he arrived at Giants Stadium. “Fresh” off a World Cup victory with Brazil at the 1994 tournament, it is fair to say that the hopes were high he would lead the Metros to the promised land. It wasn’t to be. Parreira missed out on the playoffs, finishing 5th (Out of five) in the Eastern Conference. His first five games foreshadowed a poor season. Parreira led the team to 1-4-0 record with a goal differential of -1.
11. Alfonso Mondelo
4 coach points
Mondelo is another coach that could not last an entire season at the MetroStars. The team had a poor 14-17 record, which was good enough to reach the playoffs, but not good enough to keep his job. Mondelo went 2-3-0 and carried a -2 goal differential after five matches.
10. Mike Petke
4 coach points
Team legend Petke took the reigns of the Red Bulls after a coaching search that came back empty when Hans Backe departed following the 2012 season. While Petke won the club their first trophy in his rookie season, it is easy to forget how poor things started in 2013. It took the Red Bulls five matches to win their first of the season over the Philadelphia Union. The Red Bulls came out of the gate with a 1-2-2 record and a -1 goal differential.
9. Richie Williams 2.0
9 coach points
Williams’ second go with the club helped the club regain some of their lost form after Juan Carlos Osorio and Jeff Agoos left the team in tatters. Williams job was to stop the bleeding and gain back some respect for a team that had made an MLS Cup appearance the year prior. It culminated with a vicious Toronto FC beatdown that forced the Reds to miss the playoffs that season. In his first five matches back in charge, he stopped a massive winless streak and went 2-1-2 with a +1 goal differential.
8. Bruce Arena
9 coach points
Arena might always be viewed as the one that got away for the Red Bulls. After leaving NY, he spent eight season with the LA Galaxy, winning MLS Cup in 2011, 2012, and 2014. He looked like he had a squad in 2007 that could challenge for the cup, but a Juan Pablo Angel concussion derailed a strong season and Arena was sent packing. In his first five game in charge in 2006, things did not look as promising. Arena guided the team to a 1-2-2 record with a +4 goal differential. Offset that wild positive goal differential with a 6-0 win over Real Salt Lake in that time.
7. Juan carlos osorio
10 coach points
Osorio is one of the strangest figures in all of Metro lore. He took a make shift lineup to MLS Cup in 2008, then turned in one of the worst coaching performances in MLS history in 2009. USMNT fans calling for Osorio to take the reins must be willfully neglecting this huge black mark on Osorio’s permanent record. Osorio did have a solid opening five, putting up a 2-1-2 record with a +2 goal differential.
6. Chris armas
11 coach points
There is a lot left to be written about Armas. His tenure with the team is only just beginning. Despite the negative vocal contingent, Armas is towards the top of this list for a reason. 3-2-0 after five matches with a +2 goal differential.
5, bora multinovich
12 coach points
If you needed any proof that you can’t judge a manager by their first five games in charge, Bora is IT. The second worst season in team history brought a ton of embarrassment to the club in the early days of MLS. But his first five matches in charge offered so much promise. Taking over for Mondelo in 1998, Bora finished the season with a win in a shootout. He started the next season with a ton of promise, but it all went sideways. Overall, he recorded a 4-1-0 thanks to shootout victories, and put up a 0 goal differential.
4. bob bradley
12 coach points
Before the youth movement ushered in during the Jesse Marsch era, Bob Bradley did a lot for young American players. Bradley gathered some strong talent during his tenure, and the young players traded from those teams all went on to bigger and better things. Names like Ricardo Clark, Mike Magee, Brad Davis, and Eddie Gaven all starred for Bradley. He even brought along a pretty good 16-year-old son that had a very successful career at home and abroad. Bradley looked the part right away, showing his pedigree, doling out a 3-1-1 record with a +2 goal differential in his first five matches.
3. mo johnston
12 coach points
When Metro leadership fired Bradley, they turned to assistant Mo Johnston. Johnston stayed with the team before being removed during the 2006 season. His 2005 playoff defeat was one of the worst in team history, giving up a 2 goal aggregate lead on the road to the New England Revolution. Johnston went on to coach Toronto FC to similarly poor results. In his first five matches, he put up strong numbers, going 2-0-3 and carrying a +3 goal differential.
2. hans backe
14 coach points
Backe won few points for style, but he remains one of the most successful coaches in team history (In a way). He made the playoffs every year he was in charge, and even won the Eastern Conference in his first year in charge. Perhaps more impressive is the 1.57 points per game Backe’s teams amassed. His partnership with Erik Soler helped bring Thierry Henry and Dax McCarty to the Red Bulls. Both players are now considered team legends. Backe opened Red Bull Arena in style, but his win-now teams were a financial burden for the club. In his first five matches, Backe put up a very respectable 4-1-0 record with a +2 goal differential.
16 coach points
The winningest coach in team history also turned heads right away. With an enormous amount of pressure on the club following the firing of Mike Petke surely weighed heavily on the minds of the players and staff. Marsch helped erase that pain guiding the team to a second supporter’s shield in 2015, and reaching the finals of the U.S. Open Cup in 2017. Unfortunately, the success never translated to a knockout tournament win, but many of the Red Bulls’ current cornerstones and ideals are attributed to Marsch. In his first five matches, Marsch put up a 3-0-2 record and a +5 goal differential, showcasing the Red Bulls new attacking style.
Time will tell
Armas currently holds a 1.80 points per game record. The best in Red Bulls’ history was the aforementioned Ocatvio Zombrano who held a 1.72 mark. It is way too early to tell if Armas could keep the pace, but he certainly is off to a better start than the majority of coaches that came before him. But what does that tell us? Not much.
The history of Metro coaches is long and strange, and each one gets the chance to fill out their chapter. Be kind, and give him time to tell his story.
Photo by Bill Twomey Photography