By Harrison Crow (@Harrison_Crow)
I hate crapping all over off-season awards. Really, I do. The idea of me telling you the way MLS and voters determined something is wrong and/or different than how I would determine it, even though I have zero inside track on how any of them really defined the measurables of the award (outside of the vote conducted). It's all stupid. This is just the subjective nature of the award process.
Now that you know that little bit about me, let me now show you that I'm also a hypocrite as I do exactly the opposite here in talking about how the Coach of the Year award was distributed.
Ben Olsen is probably a pretty good coach, I don't know for certain. I don't know how to measure the set of instructions that he gives prior to the game or his half time adjustments relative to his counter parts. I don't know who he really wanted for his team in the last off-season and who he fought to acquire to give the United the best chance to compete.
What I know is very simple and logical; no one really knows any of that stuff. What happened in those important conversations and the metrics that we use to "quantify" the events are laden with noise.
It's subjective, and probably a bit bias, to think that Óscar Pareja or Greg Berhalter or Sigi Schmid deserved the coach of the year any more than Olsen. We are gauging the coaches accomplishments off the accomplishments of the players. Which means the teams talent level has an associated level of value in the determining how successful the coach was. Which seems a bit unsavory.
My counter point to this; if talent wasn't involved than why wouldn't we be talking about Wilmer Cabrera and the job he did as the proverbial caretaker for the club formerly known as Chivas USA?
Assuming that talent and accomplishment within the team isn't a real stretch for determining how those that voted applied some weight of value. We understand that Olsen helped usher his team towards the first place finish in the East and the end of season results convey importance to people.
The problem that I have is that I feel this result was a very luck driven.
Much of the praise for Olsen lies with the defense that tied for the fewest goals against in MLS. The problem that I have with that is that has more to do with their keeper and luck than it has to do with actual ability and "stalwartness". Overall DC by our measures of expected goals DC United had a pretty average defensive season finishing 13th overall with 1.43 expected goals against. Some people could be even a bit harsh and say it was a sub-par season.
The difference between them having 49 goals against versus the 37 that were actually scored can mostly be attributed to the outstanding play by Bill Hamid. I'm sure there are other factors that I'm missing here but considering that Bill Hamid was good for saving almost 11 goals above the average keeper (best in MLS) it speaks to the situation of the defense possibly being less than they really appear.
And if it wasn't for the run of luck with the defense their attack was paltry at best. Their expected goals scored was second worst (only to Chivas USA) for the second year in a row. This drove their expected goal differential from being 15 to being -10. A total 25 goal swing on the basis of luck and the development of one of the best young goal keepers in MLS.
I'm sure there are situations and arguments against Berhalter, Pareja and Schmid. But handing out this award is a reminder that the awards season is about narratives. Worst to First sticks out in everyone's mind and that's alright.
I'm not saying Olsen didn't deserve the award because his team in reality sucked. I'm saying the basis for which it appears most determined his worthiness for the award may have come by way of a false premise. Olsen may very well have deserved the award based upon the merit of his skill, effort and dedication. But pinning it on his ability to "coach" defense and then backing it up by showing they allowed the least goals in the league seems hardly tenable to me.
Honestly, if you ask me, the league's BEST coach wasn't even on the ballot. I'm not even a Galaxy fan and I think that.