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A Philadelphia Union blog hosted by Christopher A. Vito and Matthew De George

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Pay no attention to the numbers behind the Curtin, a league-wide assessment

Since there’s so much to discuss on the Union’s 2017 season, I decided to outsource my brainstorming for the postseason wrap-ups. Most of the ideas I have are just ones that’ve rattled around my head for months to the point of familiarity where I can’t tell good or bad.

So after my column Monday, I got this response from Andy B on Twitter that I thought warranted more than 140 characters:

First, we have to establish Jim Curtin’s record. He’s been in charge for 120 MLS games since taking over in June 2014 when John Hackworth was fired. That’s the 25th-longest streak with a single club in MLS history for a manager and seventh-longest active streak.

Compared to his peers, Jim Curtin's yield of points
has been underwhelming in recent years. (DFM file)
In those games, Curtin has a 39-50-31 record. His teams have collected 148 points, an average of 1.23 per game, and made the playoffs once.

In all competitions, Curtin is 47-52-37, factoring in four Open Cups (remember, shootout results count as draws whether teams advance or not) and one playoff game.

Good news: Curtin’s 1.23 PPG is the highest in franchise history, ahead of Hackworth (1.22) and Peter Nowak (1.16) in short tenures.

Bad news: There isn’t a long-term comp league wide with a PPG so low. Coaches with that low of a points-per-game average tend to be shown the door sooner.

I found only one coach who completed two full seasons since the start of 2014 with a lower PPG. That would be Pablo Mastroeni, hired before the 2014 season. In 124 games, Mastroeni went 38-51-35 with the Rapids, a yield of 149 points of 1.20 PPG and one playoff appearance. Mastroeni was fired 22 games into the season Aug. 15.

Three other coaches fired this year had better records than Curtin. Dominic Kinnear, axed by San Jose June 25, was 27-31-27 over 85 games, good for 114 points and 1.34 PPG. He was replaced by Chris Leitch, who moved the Earthquakes dramatically into the playoffs for the first time since 2013.

Jay Heaps was paroled from the New England debacle Sept. 19, 29 games into a disappointing season. Heaps had been at the helm since 2012, but in his last four seasons, he posted a 1.39 PPG with two playoff appearances, including a trip to the MLS Cup final in 2014. Jeff Cassar, sacrificed way back in March just three games into the season, had a 1.51 PPG in 105 games for Real Salt Lake, twice booking playoff berths. And Montreal’s Mauro Biello was let go just this week after two-plus seasons with the Impact. In 79 games, Biello’s PPG stood at 1.35, twice steering the Impact to the playoffs. (Even if you exclude the Didier Drogba-fueled run of seven wins in 11 matches during Biello’s interim stint in 2015, his PPG the last two seasons of 1.24 still exceeds Curtin’s.)

It’s no rosier elsewhere. Think D.C. United has had a rough go of it? Well, yes, but since 2014, Ben Olsen has made three playoff appearances with a PPG of 1.38. Last year was tough for Gregg Berhalter in Columbus, right? Again correct, but he’s made the playoffs in his other three years in charge, including hosting an MLS Cup final, with a 1.43 PPG. I needn’t expound on the fact that figures for contemporaries like Caleb Porter (1.55, two playoffs qualifications and an MLS Cup) and Oscar Pareja (1.62, plus a Supporters’ Shield and a U.S. Open Cup) are higher.

Even Veljko Paunovic, who inherited a mess last year in Chicago, is higher at 1.26. And Jason Kreis, who in 117 games that includes his 2013 campaign with Real Salt Lake, has managed 1.29 PPG in fragments of his last four seasons of employ, albeit around two firings and another very hot seat in Orlando City.

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