Chris Armas is the new head coach of Toronto FC. The same coaching carousel that took Greg Vanney to LA has brought another familiar MLS face north of the border. While the MLS Cup still eluded the Red Bulls under Armas, Vanney managed TFC to historic heights. Will Armas be able to meet the expectations Vanney set?
What kind of coach is TFC getting in Armas? First and foremost, Armas knows the MLS. As a player, he spent twelve seasons in the league (‘96-’97, Galaxy; ‘98-’07, Fire), with a lengthy list of accomplishments. As coach of the Red Bulls for three seasons, he put together a resume of 29 wins, 21 losses, and 11 draws – a near .500 record. However, his best season came in his first season (2018), where the Red Bulls went 22-7-5, winning the Eastern Conference, but bowing out in the MLS Cup Semi-Finals.
Tactically, Chris Armas followed the typical Red Bulls style – high press. They relied on turnovers, speed, and counter-attacking. It worked for a time, but the MLS rapidly changed. Defenses have improved in talent and tactics, and the quality of offenses has improved, partly nullifying the press’ reliance on turnovers. Armas tried changing his tactics and adapting, but the Red Bulls just didn’t have the talent to make it work.
Toronto, however, has a much more talented roster, at least on paper. Armas gets to turn loose the potential of Ayo Akinola and Tsubasa Endoh, and help mold the careers of homegrowns Jayden Nelson, Jordan Perruzza, and Jacob Shaffelburg. He can lean on the experience of MLS veterans Michael Bradley, Nick DeLeon, and Jonathan Osario. And he has the playmaking of reigning MVP Alejandro Pozuelo and Auro Jr.
So what can we expect from Armas’ version of TFC? First, results will be tied to the talent. All indications are that sporting director Ali Curtis will keep the bank account open to bring in the best talent available – and he’s already looking at a new defender to shore up the back-line. Next, given the experience already on the roster, Armas will only need to groom the young players and make a few tactical tweaks to get good results for the club. It’s entirely possible to see Toronto as a top-four club in the East. However given everything the club already has and will be doing from a talent perspective, it’s entirely possible to see Armas without a job if the squad starts the season flat and the organization falls into old habits of quickly kicking coaches to the curb.
On a personal note, having watched Armas for so many seasons in Chicago, I really want to see him succeed. I also caught an autographed soccer ball from him at a bar during a World Cup 2010 watch party…but we’ll save that story for the podcast. So to the fans, organization, and new head coach himself, we at the Sons of a Pitch: An American Soccer Podcast wish you best of luck.
Host, The Sons of a Pitch: An American Soccer Podcast