Yallop, Kinnear and the 4 other players-turned-coaches to claim MLS Cup

Toronto's Greg Vanney aims to join the exclusive group of players who've become title-winning coaches.

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TORONTO -- Only six MLS players have gone on to win an MLS Cup as a head coach. On Saturday, Greg Vanney could become the seventh. Vanney will have massive support behind him when his Toronto FC side takes on the Seattle Sounders at BMO Field in a rematch of the 2016 final, which Toronto lost.

He's been in charge of the Reds since succeeding Ryan Nelsen in August 2014. It's his first professional head-coaching gig, but he's got extensive experience on the technical side, serving as Real Salt Lake's director of soccer operations and academy director, as an assistant coach at Chivas USA under his current top assistant, Robin Fraser, as an academy coach with the Galaxy, and as assistant general manager and academy director in Toronto before taking charge of the first team.

Vanney played for 13 years and would have played in the 2002 World Cup had he not been hurt in the first warmup game two weeks before the tournament commenced. The defender and midfielder played in two MLS Cup finals for LA, losses to D.C. United in 1996 and 1999, but never won a championship. He departed for a three-year stint in France in 2002, the year the Galaxy won its first title.

The six former players to win titles as head coaches:


San Jose Earthquakes 2001, 2003

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

The English-born Canadian defender, who spent most of his career at Ipswich Town, anchored the Tampa Bay Mutiny backline in MLS' first three seasons -- with a Supporters' Shield in 1996 -- and won two titles in his first three-year stint with the Earthquakes. His 2001 team knocked off Los Angeles, 2-1, on Dwayne De Rosario's golden goal, and beat Shield-winner Chicago, 4-2, in 2003 behind Landon Donovan's brace.

Yallop, who started his coaching career as an assistant with the Mutiny and D.C. United, then took charge of Canada's national team for two-and-a-half years, followed by two seasons with the Galaxy -- David Beckham arrived in year two -- another five-and-a-half years in San Jose when the Quakes were reborn, and a couple years with the Fire. He took charge last year of the USL's Arizona United, which was rebranded last month as Phoenix Rising FC.


D.C. United 2004

Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

He's the only man to win MLS Cups as captain and manager, leading the expansion Chicago Fire to the title in its inaugural 1998 campaign and taking D.C. United to the championship in his first year as a head coach.

Nowak, who had played in his native Poland, Turkey, Switzerland and Germany, was the centerpiece of Bob Bradley's Chicago teams in 1998-2002, and his D.C. side claimed the crown in 2004, with Alecko Eskandarian tallying twice in the 3-2 title-game win over Kansas City. He won the Shield with United in 2006, then joined Bradley's U.S. national team staff -- he was in charge of the U.S. U-23s at the 2008 Beijing Olympics -- before becoming the Philadelphia Union's first coach, a tenure that closed in controversy, with players alleging mistreatment.

Nowak filed a wrongful-termination lawsuit that went nowhere. He has since guided Antigua and Barbuda's national team and, this year, Polish club Lechia Gdansk.


Houston Dynamo 2006, 2007

Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

The former U.S. national team/MLS attacking midfielder had won two MLS Cups as Yallop's assistant and the Supporters' Shield as head coach before San Jose relocated to Houston, and he guided the Dynamo to MLS championships in the clubs first two seasons in South Texas.

The Scottish-born, Bay Area-reared Kinnear won pre-MLS titles in San Jose and Seattle (and a Mexican League crown with Necaxa) before playing in MLS for Colorado, San Jose and Tampa Bay, and he's the only coach not named Bruce Arena to win back-to-back trophies in the league. Both title-game triumphs were over New England, the first on PKs after Brian Ching answered Taylor Twellman's extra time goal moments, the second as Joseph Ngwenya and Brian Ching netted second-half goals for a 2-1 comeback victory.

He coached Houston until 2014, going to MLS Cups in 2011 and 2012, and has been in charge of the Earthquakes the past two seasons.


Real Salt Lake 2009

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Kreis was MLS' all-time goals leader (108) when he abruptly retired in May 2007 to succeed John Ellinger as RSL head coach. He had a championship two seasons later after beating the LA Galaxy on penalties.

He spent the bulk of his playing career in Dallas, where he was the 1999 MLS MVP after scoring a league-best 18 goals, and still holds club records for games (247), goals (91) and assists (65). He went to RSL in the expansion draft ahead of the 2005 season, and, as with the Burn, netted the first goal in club history.

RSL's triumph in 2009 was most unexpected: The Claret and Cobalt had finished fifth in the West and went through the Eastern bracket, sweeping Shield winner Columbus and outlasting Chicago on PKs to reach MLS Cup, then rallied from a first-half deficit to force OT and win the shootout, 5-4.

Kreis had RSL in the final again in 2013, in which it lost on PKs to Sporting Kansas City, then resigned to become the first coach for New York City FC, which canned him after missing the playoffs in year one. He took charge of Orlando City SC in July.


Sporting Kansas City 2013

Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

Vermes joined Nowak as the only men to win MLS Cups as a player and coach when he guided Sporting to a penalty-kicks triumph over visiting Real Salt Lake in sub-freezing temperatures three years ago. 

The former U.S. national team forward, who played at the 1988 Seoul Olympics and in the 1990 World Cup, was MLS' Defender of the Year when Kansas City, then the Wizards, captured the 2000 title, and he became the club's technical director in November 2006, four years after his playing days finished. He had played in Hungary, Netherlands, Spain and in the pre-MLS leagues in the U.S. before joining the New York/New Jersey MetroStars -- now the Red Bulls -- in MLS' inaugural campaign and spent two years with Colorado before joining K.C. in 2000.

Sporting needed 10 rounds of PKs to finish off RSL, with Aurelien Collin scoring the decisive spot kick (for a 7-6 win) after his 78th-minute goal forged a 1-1 draw. Sporting has lost in the knockout round the past three campaigns under Vermes, who became the longest-serving head coach in the league when Arena returned to the national team.


Portland Timbers 2015

Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

Porter's playing career was brief. After winning an NCAA title his senior year at Indiana, he made just four appearances totaling 72 minutes for San Jose in 1999 -- he was red-carded in his only start -- and saw no time in one year with Tampa Bay after the Clash waived him at midseason.

He's made his mark as a coach, first in six years as an assistant at IU under legend Jerry Yeagley, then in seven seasons as head coach at Akron. There he reached the NCAA title game in 2009, won the title in 2010 and posted a 119-18-17 record, with just eight losses in his last five years.

He failed to get the U.S. U-23 team to the 2012 London Olympics, but was an immediate hit after the Timbers brought him in three years ago. Portland won at Columbus, 2-1, in last year's MLS Cup final after Diego Valeri took advantage of goalkeeper Steve Clark's grotesque misplay of a back pass just 27 seconds in and Rodney Wallace added a the game-winner in the seventh minute.

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