Ali's choice

The Chris Armas era begins

One of the best new stats in sports is Value Over Replacement Player, or VORP as it is commonly called.

VORP is great because it allows you to put a value on the overall contribution of a player. Looking at multiple aspects of their game, it also allows you to compare players of different eras, as it standardizes individual statistics from year to year.

VORP has become an important stat in contract negotiations and in free agency, as it allows player and management to have an objective number to point to to make an argument about worth.

It also helps to quantify exactly what an average player looks like. Players are either better than average, or worse. It’s black and white. You know where you stand and teams know where they need to improve.

Unfortunately, there isn’t a VORP stat for MLS managers, but we don’t need it because we know what a dead average MLS manager looks like.  

They look like Chris Armas.

Toronto FC ended its search today for a new manager by naming the former Red Bulls man Armas to the job. To say that this was an underwhelming hire is an understatement.

With a 33-11-27 record in his only head coaching role, fans are being completely reasonable in questioning the move. They were, after all, promised more. When asked earlier in the search about whether he was open to hiring a manager that that hadn’t been at the top level before, TFC GM Ali Curtis waved the question off. He said that it wasn’t a starter job.

Armas isn’t brand new, true, but he’s hardly what one thinks of when they think of a battle-hardened and experienced coach.

About the best thing one can say about his time in New York is that he didn’t screw-up a good team when he took over from Jesse Marsch mid-season in 2018. The Red Bulls won the Supporter’s Shield that year, but did Armas? Or, was it a Marsch accomplishment? Most lean to the latter.

On SoccerToday we reported that TFC had gone after Patrick Vieira hard. The club has denied that they offered him a contract, but we were told that they were being cute with that denial. He wasn’t officially offered a deal, but he was told what the deal would look like if they were to offer one so he could consider it. Ultimately, he decided to stay in Europe and look for another job there.

TFC is never going to admit that Vieira was their first choice – nor should they – but Vieira was their first choice. That, plus Curtis’ comments, is going to make it difficult for Armas to start the job in Toronto to the excitement of fans.

Of course that doesn’t matter. It especially doesn’t matter to Curtis, who has been down this path before when he hired Marsch in New York, much to the dismay of Red Bulls fans who loved the previous coach, Mike Petke. That move turned out to be inspired. Maybe this one will too.

However, the biggest thing the move signals doesn’t have much to do with coaching at all. Rather, it is another indication that this is now fully Ali Curtis’ team. He is a manager that does not blink at criticism and who doesn’t seem to be influenced by short-term pressure, or outside influences.

Ultimately, TFC is still among the most talented teams in the league, albeit a team with a core that isn’t getting younger. Armas should be expected to keep the Reds near the top of the league in 2021 and Curtis will need to answer for the hire if he cannot.

TFC fans have no choice but to hope that both men know what they are doing.

Finally, here’s the thing about VORP — sometimes average players develop into above average ones.

Maybe the same can happen here?