Was Firing Nagamura the Correct Decision?
Following Houston's 2-1 road loss to Seattle, the Houston Dynamo announced the immediate firing of first year head coach Paulo Nagamura, along with his entire coaching staff. Was there anyway around this?
This decision came to all Dynamo supporters as a huge surprise. First off, it is very rare to let go of a coach during his first season in charge. Second, Eddie Robinson and Glenn Davis, the two longtime commentators for La Naranja, went on Twitter just days before the firing. They had "Dynamo Twitter" in a twist when they claimed Nagamura will surely get another full year next season to prove he is the guy. Eddie and Glenn usually are reliable and seem to have an "inside scoop" on Dynamo related news.
The match before Seattle vs Dynamo saw Houston pull off an insane upset against LAFC. The stadium was full (thanks LAFC) and the vibes were immaculate. PNC Stadium welcomed a surprising host, Don Garber. The infamous MLS commissioner came to speak directly to Ted Segal, the newly acquainted owner of the Dynamo. Speculation arose on what their conversation was about, but after the Nagamura news broke out, a popular theory arose.
With Houston being the 3rd largest city population-wise in the US along with boasting a large Hispanic community, its no joke when I say the market for soccer is absolutely massive down here in the Bayou City. "HTOWN" truly is a sleeping giant. With this in mind, it is not too farfetched to think that Garber came to discuss the Dynamo's recent lack of success. Houston needs, no MUST, do better in roping in that soccer fanbase that lies within. The Dynamo will not accomplish this with results going south like they have. The team must get better. Garber understands this. I like to think that Ted and Garber's conversation was about making Houston good, and fast. By the time the 2026 World Cup comes to Houston, we need to be a respected club. I believe Garber urged Ted to take evasive actions, and this is when Nagamura got the boot.
Glenn Davis and Eddie Robinson obviously have connections within the team. News doesn't appear out of thin air, such as the notion of having Nagamura stay another year. I have no doubt in my mind that Pat Onstad had every intention to keep Nagamura and let him prove himself next season. However, Ted simply said no. Segal had a sit-down with Pat and company and was straight forward. Segal was unhappy, and when the big man is unhappy, things change. That is when the hammer came down on Nagamura. Was it the correct call to let go of your coach before a year with him in charge?
Paulo Nagamura at best was below average. The former SKC II coach came into the season with an improved roster from last year, yet was getting the same results a Tab Ramos. The squad had little identity and still no definitive starting 11. The attack was stagnant and the tactics were all over the place, assuming there were tactics. There were 9 games this season where Houston led 1-0. In 8 of those games the Dynamo lost 2-1. That was a possibility of 27 points. Consistently giving up the lead in that manner falls on the shoulder of the coach.
Hector Herrera came into this team, and the team was still throwing results out of the window. A proven champions league player with 3 years left in his gas tank should be tearing this league up. However, the inexperience of Nagamura prevented the former head coach from getting the best out of arguably a top 5 midfielder in MLS.
Nagamura's team had no discipline. Houston leads the league in yellow cards with 85. That is averaging almost 3 yellow cards a game! There were many times throughout the season where a second yellow card was the deciding factor in a match.
To put it shortly, the decision to fire Nagamura was absolutely correct. The blame doesn't fall solely on Paulo, however. Pat Onstad, the general manager for Houston, has a warm seat right about now. With this failed coaching hire, that means a waste of half of a season with the aging Hector Herrera. That also means the window for Quintero to be a viable MLS midfielder has passed. The 34 year old 5 foot 5 Colombian has been a standout performer for Houston in his 3 seasons down in Texas.
While the decision was correct to move on from Paulo Nagamura, Pat needs a slam-dunk offseason to get back on my good side. That means a total roster overhaul.
Kenny Bundy, the coach for Dynamo Dos, will finish out the season for the Dynamo. Kenny led Dynamo Dos in its inaugural season to playoffs. His first game in charge for the Dynamo first team was against Sporting KC at home. The game ended in a 0-0 draw. The team goes again on 9/13/22 to face New England Revolution at home. While the fanbase is high on Bundy, I personally cannot imagine a reality where I would be okay with hiring Bundy as the coach. While Kenny is talented, young, and full of good ideas, he is inexperienced and a lateral transition from Nagamura. I would expect some sort of position to be available for Bundy following the end of the 2022 season. His success with Dynamo 2 has earned him that.
In an interview with Glenn Davis shortly after the news broke of Nagamura, Pat Onstad stated they were already on the look for a new coach. I hope the organization searches for someone with a more polished resume, as we can see with Tab Ramos and now Paulo Nagmaura that the inexperience of coaching led the team down a path of despair. The Houston Dynamo are facing last place for the 3rd consecutive season in a row with 4 games remaining.
As always, this has been Colin with Keeping Tabs. I cover all things Houston Dynamo on my twitter account @keepingtabspod and also the occasional podcast on Spotify. Remember to keep your tabs while you #HoldItDown.