The failure of Hans Backe
August 31, 2011

A year ago, as "Clever" Hans Backe was leading Metro from the despair of the 2009 season and into first place in the East, we thought, finally. Finally, a coach who gets it. Finally, a foreign manager who has figured out MLS. And even as the year ended with the disastrous playoff upset, we were looking forward to what Backe can do with a rejuvenated roster.

Today, we ask ourselves, what were we thinking?

Now, Backe is not the only one to blame for this year's failures, but some of the feces must be flung in his direction. The records speaks for itself, after all.

The year started with Backe benching last year's starter, Bouna Coundoul, for Greg Sutton. Backe stated the former's play with the Senegal national team -- during the preseason -- as one of his reasons for the change. Now, Coundoul is not without his faults, but he is clearly a better goalkeeper than Sutton, and Metro's best results (even this year) have come with Bouna in net. That said, the constant juggling of goalkeepers seemed to undermine Coundoul's confidence, costing Metro a number of points (not to mention the points lost when Sutton was in goal).

Lots of jokes have been made about Backe's inability to substitute. And as injuries to important players pile up, one can't help to participate. Backe's substitution rate is currently one of the lowest in league history. He claims that his bench is thin, which is fine. But is it not worth it to rest a older, tired player, when the game is already decided (say in the recent losses to Colorado and Salt Lake)? Is it not worth it to give a young player a run-out late in the match, to see if fresh legs can make the difference (and possibly give them much-needed in-game experience to make that bench a little more thick)?

At this point of their careers, most players are finished products. Their skills will not necessarily improve. Where they can improve, however, is in their reading of the game, and that is where the coaching staff is supposed to come in. Metro has been ATROCIOUS this season on set plays, be it free or corner kicks. This is one major thing that the coaching staff must address. We're sure it has, yet game after game, another set piece finds itself in the back of the Metro net. So Backe is not doing something right here.

And then there is Mehdi Ballouchy. Not to hark on the subject like we did last week, but Backe just keeps putting him in positions that he cannot succeed in. Even the neutral observers have seen the failings here; why can't Backe? Perhaps is not so "Clever" after all?


Well, there are eight games left. Eight games for Backe to show that 2010 wasn't just a flash in the pan. We still remember what he did last year, winning games with 2009 castoffs and preaching organization at every turn. There's still hope this year. There's still a chance to stop the failure. Let's hope "Clever" Hans lives up to his monicker.

And, hell, he's still a better coach than Juan Carlos Osorio.

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