With rumors surfacing yesterday that Freddy Juarez is a target for Liga MX side Puebla, my curiosity was well and truly piqued.
It’s not a rumor you hear everyday — an American coach being targeted by a Liga MX club. It’s a bit novel. It’s also indicative of something I suspect might sometimes be overlooked here.
Freddy Juarez has been surprisingly impressive in his first top-flight role.
Now, that doesn’t mean he’s been perfect as a coach. He clearly has things he needs to work on. He, himself, has said as such. He’s talked about how his substitution patterns haven’t always been great, and he has shown a willingness to work on those elements of his game.
His performance as coach has been rendered even more impressive by the revelations around Dell Loy Hansen’s ownership of the club. If we’re only talking the soccer piece of that — and there’s obviously a lot more to discuss — we’ve learned in the last week or two from RSL’s head scout Andy Williams that Hansen would review players before signing off on transfers, and that he blocked the acquisition of some extremely promising players.
This, of course, doesn’t mean that Juarez is the finished product, and it certainly doesn’t mean that he’d be an amazing fit at Puebla. But we can see that Juarez has a history of developing professional players, from his pre-RSL coaching days with Edgar Castillo to RSL’s top youth classes. He has a knack for development, and that is an appealing trait.
But for all his good qualities, I think moving to Puebla would be a terrible move for Freddy Juarez.
Like I said, Juarez isn’t the finished product. He has never been tested at that level. He could certainly adapt to it, but would he be given the time? Let us look at Puebla’s management history over the last five years.
- Juan Reynoso, Aug. 2019–current
- José Luis Sánchez, Feb. 2019–Aug. 2019
- Enrique Meza, Oct. 2017–Feb. 2019
- Jose Cardozo, Jan. 2017–Jul. 2017
- Ricardo Valiño, Apr. 2016–Jan. 2017
- Pablo Marini, May 2015–Apr. 2016
It is clear that coaches at Puebla are not given a long leash, and they are quick to fire somebody if performances aren’t going the way they’d expect. It is very much the opposite of what we’ve seen at Real Salt Lake to this point, where coaches are given a significantly longer leash.
For the sake of his career, I think moving to Liga MX at this time would be extremely risky. But we can also look beyond the apparent opportunity here to what he has at Real Salt Lake — and what’s to come.
See, an ownership change could change things pretty significantly for Juarez. I see a few branching paths in this regard, namely:
- Juarez is given greater resources for the team, and as a result, can achieve more consistent results
- Juarez is not given greater resources, but he stays in place
- Juarez is replaced as head coach, with a new owner bringing in somebody else
Of the potential owners on the table, though, and with it looking more and more likely that the Larry H. Miller Group remains in the picture, even with someone like Qualtrics’ Ryan Smith involved, I suspect Juarez’s position would be safe. The Jazz have shown a long-term approach to coaches, and they’ve hired coaches into their first NBA head coach jobs. In this regard, I would be surprised if they came in operationally and removed Juarez from his job.
As for resources, it could be some time before we could properly evaluate that, but like Kyle Beckerman, I would hope that a new owner would come in with a desire to win, and resources are part of that equation.
I suppose when it comes down to it, here’s my argument: Freddy Juarez should stay at Real Salt Lake. He is a coach who has surpassed my expectations, and he has shown a propensity for growth and new ideas. He is not a perfect coach, but he is growing. Real Salt Lake would be well-served to keep him in his position. Further, Puebla is a volatile club for management, and it could be hugely disruptive to his career path if he took a job there and was fired in short order.
So, there you have it.