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Replacing Randy Waldrum: A look at the History of NWSL Coaching Changes

Houston can't rely on the NWSL's usual coaching carousel

Randy Waldrum and Brian Ching talk prior to a Houston Dash game. Trask Smith

The search is on.

With Houston Dash's team president Chris Canetti's decision to mutually part ways with Randy Waldrum on Monday, the Dash are officially in a transition period but face a lack of head coaching options, an issue that exists within women’s soccer.

In the brief five-year history of the NWSL, the Chicago Red Stars, FC Kansas City, Orlando Pride and Seattle Reign FC are the only clubs that have not made a head coaching change, while the four other clubs in the league—with the exception of the Boston Breakers—have participated in the coaching carousel that has defined the league. In order to even predict who the Dash will select to lead their club, it is crucial to take note of the history of the other clubs in regards to coaching changes.

Seattle Reign FC, FC Kansas City, Chicago Red Stars and Orlando Pride

Success is boring. With Laura Harvey, Vlato Andonovski and Rory Dames, a trio that arguably constitutes as the league's top three coaches, it’s no secret why Seattle, Kansas City, nor Chicago have made a coaching change. Orlando, a 2015 expansion side hired former Australia and U.S. Women's National Team manager Tom Sermanni, a move that has been generally successful for the club. Orlando's current woes aren't a result of poor leadership from the bench.

Portland, Sky Blue FC, Western New York Flash/NC Courage, Washington

Following the 2015 season, the NWSL coaching carousel was at its peak. Thorns FC head coach Paul Riley departed Portland and landed with the Western New York Flash after longtime manager Aaran Lines stepped down to become Vice President. Back in Portland, Mark Parsons took up Riley’s old post leaving Washington behind and Sky Blue FC head coach Jim Gabarra left New Jersey for Washington. As the odd team out, Sky Blue FC decided to promote Christy Holly instead of scouring through the collegiate and international ranks.

Boston Breakers

Boston may serve as the exception to the general rule in terms of hiring managers from other NWSL teams. The Breakers were the first and last club to fire their coach during the season as Lisa Cole was terminated with four games left in 2013, the NWSL’s inaugural season. Defender Cat Whitehill served as the interim head coach for the remainder of the season and assistant coach Tom Durkin was promoted in the offseason. Durkin led Boston for two unsuccessful seasons before he stepped down. Boston, however, made the biggest head coaching splash in league history in 2015, hiring two-time FA WSL manager of the year Matt Beard from Liverpool Ladies FC. The Breakers have had more head coaching changes than any other club and have employed every possible strategy for success, a player-coach (Whitehill), a promoted assistant (Tom Durkin) and a coach with no prior history in the NWSL (Matt Beard). If the past has taught us anything, it’s likely that since Omar Morales will serve as the interim head coach for the rest of the season and a permanent decision will be made in the offseason. Morales is currently Houston’s most likely candidate unless a more qualified nominee is found. Morales provides the Dash with a fresh perspective, he joined the club as an assistant coach at the end of March and previously served as the gaffer for Eastern New Mexico University.

Houston could attempt to find a college coach to serve as the club's permanent replacement, but the challenge of finding an individual who’s willing to leave the protected environment and benefits associated with coaching in the NCAA will be a difficult test.

The last time that happened in the NWSL was in 2014 when as an expansion side the Dash pried Randy Waldrum away from a 15-year career at Notre Dame.