Three for Thursday: Dutch tacticians in MLS

TFC's Winter is not the first coach to bring Oranje flavor to MLS

There’s a Dutch revolution happening north of the border. Toronto FC – or Ajax Ontario, if you prefer – have brought in famed Oranje tactician Aron Winter to steer what’s been a listing ship. Winter has promised to rebuild the roster (which he’s largely done in a busy offseason) and institute a new, possession-based 4-3-3 designed to capitalize on TFC’s skill in the middle of the pitch.

You’re probably well aware that Winter isn’t the first Dutchman to come into the league talking of a tactical overhaul. One of his compatriots fared very well. The others ...

1) Thomas Rongen

Rongen is one of the MLS originals and head coach of the now-defunct Tampa Bay Mutiny for the 1996 season. He wasn’t just any old manager, though. He was the league’s first Coach of the Year and guided Tampa Bay to the inaugural Supporters’ Shield, the club’s only major title in their too-brief existence.

The Amsterdam native moved on to New England after that one year in Tampa, and had a less successful time with the Revs. That was followed by three years at D.C. United, where he won a MLS Cup in 1999. His most recent MLS work was as the first head coach of Chivas USA back in 2005, a position he held for less than half a season.
Currently Rongen is the head coach of the US U-20 national team and will be at the helm when Youth World Cup qualifying kicks off later this month.

2) Hans Westerhof

Initially Rongen’s boss with the Rojiblancos, Westerhof took the reins to for the second half of that miserable 2005 season and quietly finished the job of leading Chivas USA to one of the worst years in league history.

Both he and Chivas landed on their feet, though – Westerhof getting a gig with Necaxa in the Mexican top flight, and Chivas inking future US national team coach Bob Bradley, who turned the Goats around and led them to a successful 2006 campaign.

3) Ruud Gullit

It’s hard to leave a more disappointing legacy than Westerhof’s, but Gullit was up to the task. The undeniably brilliant player, among the best in the world in his heyday and a member of the 1988 Dutch team that won the European Championship, had a torrid time as a head coach in MLS.

Gullit promised “sexy football,” and his 2008 Galaxy certainly delivered goals. But they were a sieve at the back, and the manager’s abrasive personality made for clashes with everyone from Landon Donovan to Abel Xavier. Gullit was on the job for less than a year before resigning.

Much like Chivas in 2006, however, the Galaxy landed on their feet. New head coach Bruce Arena led them to the MLS Cup final in 2009 and a Supporters’ Shield in 2010.

Gullit, meanwhile, is currently the head coach of FC Terek Grozny in Chechnya.