FourFourTwo USA's 25 Best Coaches in American Soccer: 20-16
20. Adrian Heath
Guiding an expansion team in MLS is never easy and Heath is definitely taking the hard road. The former Everton star is coaching his second expansion club in three years, and is defying expectations in his first year with Minnesota United.
Heath gets a bum rap for his job with Orlando City, but he had the Lions just one spot out of the playoffs in their first season, with more points than any expansion club since the playoff-bound Seattle Sounders in 2009 – and all that despite using by far the youngest team in MLS.
After being fired in Orlando with the team sitting one spot under the red line with more than half a season remaining, Heath was eventually hired in Minnesota, a team some around the league expected to be the worst in MLS history. Heath has already avoided that fate, guiding United to five wins in its first 17 games, safely away from history’s basement.
The Englishman also remains one of the most dominant coaches in the history of the lower divisions in the U.S. His Orlando City teams absolutely dominated across multiple seasons in USL and had the best record through 100 games of any team in the history of American soccer.
–- Paul Tenorio
19. Mark Parsons
When it comes to player management, there is no better coach in the women’s game. For proof, look no further than what Parsons did last year, his first on the Portland Thorns job.
In the wake of the team’s worst NWSL performance, a sixth-place finish under fellow #FFT25BestCoaches honoree Paul Riley in 2015, Parsons was lured west after two-and-a-half seasons with the Washington Spirit.
At Providence Park, the same methods that allowed him to turn around a broken, deflated Spirit helped him engineer an immediate reversal. Climbing from disappointment to first place in 12 months, the Thorns claimed their second trophy with the capture of the 2016 NWSL Shield.
Parsons stripped Portland’s mentality down to its foundations, turning a squad that had rarely played for each other into a cohesive unit. In those first days, tactics took a back seat to psychology. Respect, accountability and effort would become the cornerstones of the Thorns’ approach.
Phrased like that, Parsons’ job sounds easy. But put another way, the task becomes more daunting: He had to completely rebuild a veteran team’s approach.
Having shown his Spirit success was no fluke, the former Chelsea Ladies coach has carved out his place among the NWSL’s top bosses.
18. Jill Ellis
Rarely has a coach with Ellis’ levels of success been so criticized. Only two years ago she was guiding the U.S. women’s national team to a long-elusive world title, winning the 2015 World Cup after abruptly taking over the team mid-cycle.
Such is the double-edged sword Ellis works under, sharpened on one side by high expectations, and ignorance on the other. Many of us second-guess decisions we can’t fully understand, but having broke the U.S.’ 16-year World Cup trophy drought, Ellis has earned some benefit of the doubt.
Many believe Ellis deserves more credit than that. They rightly point out the delicate balance she’s had to strike while adapting the national team’s culture. That she did so during a major tournament, adeptly moving entrenched icon Abby Wambach to the team’s fringes, is an underappreciated feat.
She couldn’t win an NCAA title at UCLA, others note, not giving her credit for the quality of player she always produced. When she’s critiqued for experimenting with how the U.S. plays now, critics rarely mention how the team’s previously stagnant nature may have allowed the world to catch up.
This type of criticism? It’s part of the job. Those within the game see her as one of the U.S.’ top bosses.
17. Giovanni Savarese
He’s been on the short list for several MLS coaching jobs, but has yet to break through. That doesn’t mean he isn’t still one of the best coaches in the country, especially when you consider his body of work with the New York Cosmos.
The former Metrostars forward has managed the NASL side since 2013, and he’s racked up trophies with the famed club, winning the NASL Championship game in 2013, 2015 and 2016 and winning the 2013, 2015 and 2016 fall NASL championships.
What’s impressive about Savarese’s coaching job with the Cosmos is that he’s found success despite an ever-changing roster and with the clear savvy of a coach who understands how he wants his teams to play. There are no shortcuts taken. The Venezuelan coach has constructed different rosters almost every year, showing an eye for finding talent, and then has molded those groups into competitive groups every season.
Savarese has more than 60 wins in his first four and a half seasons with the Cosmos, and many believe it’s only a matter of time before an MLS team pulls the trigger and snags him out of the NASL.
16. Tab Ramos
The Uruguay-born midfielder was one of the finest talents to step onto the field for the U.S., as he did 81 times and in three World Cups, and he's evolved into one of the country's finest coaches over the past half-dozen years in charge of the U.S. Under-20 national team.
Ramos has guided the Yanks to unprecedented U-20 success, reaching the World Cup quarterfinals two years ago and, after claiming the CONCACAF title, again this year -- in both World Cups his teams were eliminated on penalties and in overtime. In the process he implemented a distinct style of play that's reminiscent of his game, a swarming blend of blue-collar grit and high-society skill that might paint the U.S.'s direction forward.
He's had quite the education since starting his coaching career with NJSA 04, a New Jersey youth club which grew rapidly before merging with Cedar Stars Academy. Ramos has served on U.S. Soccer's technical board from 2006 and worked with the U-20s, initially as an assistant coach, from 2009, then toiled on Jurgen Klinsmann's U.S. staff from early 2014.
Development is a tricky science, and his impact might not be clear for another decade or longer, but his influence in the American game grows increasingly stronger.
–- Scott French