In the lead-up to the MLS Cup final (Sunday, 9 pm ET/6 pm PT, ESPN, Galavision, espn3.com, live chat on lagalaxy.com/gamedaylive) at The Home Depot Center, in Carson, Calif., MLSsoccer.com is breaking down the matchup. Today, we finally look at the coaches.
The two head coaches who will lock horns have loads of experience in the MLS Cup. Between them, LA’s Bruce Arena and Houston’s Dominic Kinnear have won four MLS Cups as head coaches, while Kinnear has also won two as assistant coach at San Jose in 2001 and 2003. Arena takes the head-to-head record, as the two have faced each other on seven occasions, with Arena posting a 4-2-1 record.
Arena was named the 2011 MLS Coach of the Year, winning the award for a record third time after he received the coveted accolade in 1997 and 2009. He has led LA to consecutive Supporters' Shields and they are only the third team in league history to reach the 60-point plateau.
The New York native won the 1996 and 1997 MLS Cups with D.C. United and led D.C. as the first-ever MLS team to win the CONCACAF Champions Cup (previous version of the Champions League) in 1998. He also managed the All-Star team in 1997, 1998 and 2010.
Arena’s ability to juggle a host of big names and get them working together must not be underestimated. Perhaps from his time managing the US national team from 1998-2006, he’s found ways to accommodate star players and make the group into a winning unit.
Arena has managed 31 playoff games in his career, second all-time behind Seattle’s Sigi Schmid, and has won 21 of them, good enough for an impressive winning percentage of 67.7 percent.
But Arena has a worthy adversary in Kinnear, as both managers search for a record third MLS Cup as head coaches. Kinnear has been hugely successful in MLS Cup history, being involved in four wins with San Jose and Houston. He won back-to-back cups as Dynamo head coach in 2006 and '07, and he’s won 10 out of 20 postseason games as a head coach.
But Kinnear’s record isn’t outstanding against LA, boasting a 9-9-5 mark all-time. Arena comes out more favorably, going 4-2-1 all-time against the Dynamo.
He did, however, have what some have considered a career year on the sidelines this season in Houston. Kinnear leaned heavily on veteran Brad Davis and rising star Geoff Cameron, but also dealt with injuries to Brian Ching and had to incorporate league newcomers Luis Camargo and Carlo Costly.
And the Dynamo’s head man showed his shrewd tactical nous when faced with the dilemma of losing Davis midway through their Eastern Conference Championship against Sporting KC, which was certainly one of the best accomplishments of an already storied career. But it would be pale in comparison to a win on Sunday.