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The case for Jim Curtin

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His team struggled in 2015, finishing tied for the second-lowest point total in the league. This, after a 2014 that saw them narrowly miss the playoffs. The downward trend normally signals a calling for the manager's head. I'll argue why that should not be the case.

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

2015 was a season that begin in tumult. The Rais M'Bolhi saga had yet to fully play itself out. The new additions to the squad had yet to show what they could do. And Jim Curtin came into the new year after a very positive finish to the prior season. They had a 7W-4D-2L stretch from July 8th to September 13th, which saw them peak to fifth in the conference standings with the franchise's first ever US Open Cup final appearance just three days later. The home loss in the USOC final was a heartbreaker, as the team would not win another game to finish out their MLS campaign either. It was apparent that the team had given their all in that match against Seattle, full of winning belief. The failure on that fateful Tuesday in September was a shock to their confidence--a confidence that had been built by a man who at age 36, would be tied for oldest player on the team he manages.

In spite of the dreadful end to the 2014 season, there were some positives on which to build. It seemed that Andrew Wenger had finally had the awakening that many had long awaited. His play from the left wing, rather than as a striker, was a revelation, and among the most prominent reasons for the team's second-half surge. Curtin was still working on finding the best pairing in his central d-mid area, as it wasn't apparent who should get the starts next to Vincent Nogueira. There were many options for Curtin to choose from, and it eventually became Brian Carroll who was preferred. He also finally got Maurice Edu settled on no longer being primarily a midfielder, and having Richie Marquez partner him instead of the more expensive Steven Vitoria. The unmaking was really around the goalkeeper position. The poor play compounded by the large chunk of salary cap space taken up put the team in a bind.

Jim Curtin can't be held responsible for the inability of his front office to make good player transactions. Rais M'Bolhi was a massive failure here, and it pervaded the entire team. They never seemed to recover from Rais's terrible turnover to Robert Earnshaw. Some say that Curtin should be held responsible for Andrew Wenger not being able to keep his level of play up, but I see it as he was the only manager to get great matches out of him. He planned on using a new striker, Fernando Aristeguieta, to lead the line, with a rejuvenated Wenger to the left, and Sebastien Le Toux to the right. It's not Curtin's fault that 'Nando battled injuries, thus disrupting Curtin's Plan A. I give Curtin a lot of credit for being able to get CJ Sapong to have his best statistical MLS season, with 9 goals and 4 assists. Also, it's not his fault that Vitoria also dealt with injury issues.

The team needs stability so that they can progress. It's a great credit to Curtin that he took a team that was almost dead last in the league to a second consecutive USOC final. As the roster evolves, so will its technical staff. The hiring of Earnie Stewart, who is familiar with Curtin, is another reason why Jim should be allowed to manage at least the 2016 season. He's learning this position, too, and I'm sure is not yet set in his ways, thus able to take direction from Stewart and work in that vision.