The majority of teams in Major League Soccer are halfway through their 2022 seasons, with the rest a game or two away from the midpoint. As such, the sample size is now large enough to draw some solid conclusions about the league's 28 clubs.
Steve Cherundolo has made LAFC a firm MLS Cup candidate once more -- just imagine how much scarier the Black and Gold will be once Gareth Bale and Giorgio Chiellini arrive and start playing. On the East Coast, New York City FC, after shaking off a hangover from lifting last season's MLS Cup, is gearing up to keep the trophy in the Bronx.
Then there are the teams at the other end of the spectrum, those that, despite it only being July 1, are probably ready to turn the page to 2023. Some of the managers of those teams likely won't be around long enough to see the dawn of a new season, while some might not even get to see the conclusion of this one.
Which of those coaches will be spared, and who will be looking for a new gig next year? We assessed managers who've been in their positions for at least one full season (which is why you won't see someone like Ezra Hendrickson of Chicago Fire FC on this list), quantifying their in-game influence, determining their responsibility for the state of their squad and taking into account any additional relevant context, and came up with a list of five names who should be feeling the heat this summer ... if they aren't already.
5. Peter Vermes | Sporting Kansas City | Hired in 2009
How do you fire a guy who deserves to have his own statue in front of your stadium? In all probability, you don't. Vermes is an icon in Kansas City, directly responsible for four of the club's seven trophies. If there's a change to be made, it has to be done delicately and collaboratively.
Considering his legacy at Sporting, whatever heat he might be feeling is probably down to the temperature of his morning coffee. There are tangible excuses for the state of affairs Vermes has presided over in 2022, none bigger than losing designated players Alan Pulido and Gadi Kinda to season-ending injuries. In a league of such parity and fine margins, those players whose salaries only fractionally count against the cap are the ones who determine whether it's feast or famine for their team.
It's hard to imagine any manager in MLS competing without two of their three DPs, but regardless, SKC has been poor this year. Very poor. They are third from the bottom in the Supporters' Shield standings, own the worst goal differential in MLS and the second-worst goals for, goals against and points per game. Not even Vermes' in-game adjustments have helped, as Sporting has the second-worst second-half goal differential in the league at minus-10.
4. Caleb Porter | Columbus Crew | Hired in 2019
Porter is an adopted Ohioan and took the Crew to an MLS Cup win in 2020, not to mention beating Cruz Azul to lift the Campeones Cup last season. It would take an almighty fall from grace to see Columbus move on from the coach who -- along with president and general manager Tim Bezbatchenko -- has been the face of the club's rebirth after its purchase by the Haslam family in January 2019.
But it has indeed been a fall. The Crew's MLS Cup title defense ended on Decision Day last season, a postseason run in 2021 eluding the Black and Gold, and they find themselves on the outside looking in on the playoff places midway through 2022.
Lucas Zelarayan, one of the most electric playmakers in the league, has missed some time this season because of hamstring and knee problems, but that can't account for the pedestrian play this season. This isn't a team with a shoestring budget anymore, either: The Ohio capital club has the 10th-highest payroll in the league, the sort of spending that should insulate a team from the absence of its star player for four games.
3. Robin Fraser | Colorado Rapids | Hired in 2019
In March, the Rapids inked Fraser to a new contract running through 2025, so from the perspective of owner Stan Kroenke's wallet, there probably isn't a lot of appetite to reverse course three months later. The reality, however, is that this team is not living up to expectations this year.
Colorado made the playoffs in each of Fraser's two full seasons in charge, and last year it finished the regular season on top of the Western Conference, success that should have been the foundation upon which it could build a contender. Instead, the team has regressed, sitting third from the bottom in the conference, equal points from the last playoff place and the foot of the table.
Is the ex-Chivas USA manager a victim of his own success? Undoubtedly. The Rapids rank 25th in payroll across the league, and they qualified for the MLS Cup playoffs just twice in the eight years before Fraser took the dugout. He has steadied the ship and raised expectations, but his side has not been as difficult to beat as in the past two seasons, and that's best exemplified on the road, where Colorado hasn't won in eight tries.
2. Phil Neville | Inter Miami CF | Hired in 2021
No one on this list possesses a worse points-per-game figure throughout the course of his tenure than Neville's 1.11 average. And for a team with such lofty ambitions, with the threat of Leonardo Campana and the world-class experience of Gonzalo Higuain, scoring the third-fewest goals in the league is rather damning.
Miami ranks 25th of 28 in second-half goal differential, suggesting that Neville struggles to make meaningful adjustments when games aren't going its way. (Or, maybe, that the Herons are simply wilting in the heat and humidity of South Florida.)
That Inter has the third-highest payroll in the league, according to the MLS Players Association, only adds to the perception that this collection of players is underperforming under this manager. That stat can deceive, though. As a result of violating MLS budget and roster regulations in 2020, Miami received a stiff penalty last season that was implemented in 2022: a $2.2 million reduction in allocation money spread across this season and next, hamstringing the club's ability to build depth in the roster slots behind their best-paid players.
1. Adrian Heath | Minnesota United FC | Hired in 2016
OK, so it's barely been a week since Minnesota announced that it had re-signed Heath to a new contract running through the 2024 season, but that won't stop us from making him No. 1 on our list. This is the former Orlando City SC manager's sixth season in charge, and during that time, the Loons have averaged 1.32 points per game -- a pace that hasn't been good enough to make the playoffs in the Western Conference since 2012 -- including this year's 1.24 PPG figure.
Twenty-two teams in MLS have a better goal differential in the second half of games this season than Minnesota, underlining Heath's struggles to adapt when his Plan A hasn't worked or when opponents have adjusted to his tactics. The way his team plays this season has evolved, from a side dependent on possession to one that presses and creates turnovers high up the pitch, but questions must be asked of such a strategy when fielding the fourth-oldest squad in the league.
Once credited for the development of Dom Dwyer and Cyle Larin in Orlando, Heath has had more difficulty getting production from his No. 9 in the Twin Cities. Abu Danladi, Christian Ramirez, Mason Toye, Darwin Quintero, Angelo Rodriguez, Luis Amarilla, Kei Kamara and Adrien Hunou all have come in with high expectations, but none has made a lasting impact. In fact, only twice in Heath's six-year reign has a forward recorded double-digit goals in Minnesota.