Season Reviews

Season review: The difference in coaching

Photo Credit: Earl Gardner

Editor’s note: This post is part of PSP’s 2018 Season Review series, in which PSP breaks down the season that was and look at the off-season ahead. To read the full series, click here.

Like most professional sports teams, the Union have a very extensive staff to help the team. After clinching a playoff spot with the win against Minnesota, Curtin thanked his technical staff, performance staff, academy staff, and well, everyone in the Union Pitchside podcast.

When you look at the Union’s coaching and staff over the franchise’s history, it’s definitely grown this year. Soccer is shifting to more position-specific coaching; think NFL coaching style. One person is the face of a position, responsible for keeping the players focused on their roles in that position. Why? It’s easier. Curtin lays out the initiatives for the game, and then the players look to their position “coach” for more specific, technical guidance.

B.J. Callaghan: Defensive Coach

Callaghan began working for the Union in 2014 as the assistant coach. He worked with the academy for two years before working under Curtin for the first team. The Union say that he’s been crucial in designing innovative and effective set piece plays. Throughout his tenure, the Union have consistently ranked among the top MLS clubs in set play goals.

  • 2018: 52 goals conceded, 404 fouls committed
  • 2017: 37 goals conceded, 432 fouls committed
  • 2016: 51 goals conceded, 389 fouls committed
  • 2015: 36 goals conceded, 374 fouls committed
  • 2014: 55 goals conceded, 413 fouls committed
  • 2013: 46 goals conceded, 438 fouls committed
  • 2012: 48 goals conceded, 464 fouls committed

Now, high-quality defense has been a bit lacking in the Union’s past, so Callaghan was working with what he had. When he first came to the Union, fouls committed definitely decreased the next season, as did goals allowed, which fluctuated over the years. This year, you can probably say these higher stats are because of four young center backs.

The younger back line this season had some mixed results. The Union struggled in some games because of their young, inexperienced center backs, but the club seems to have developed them almost entirely on their own (with some help from the Steel, of course). Callaghan’s real value has been helping Curtin mold young defenders. It’s a strength the Union can capitalize on all year long.

Pat Noonan: Midfield Coach

Noonan joined the Union’s coaching staff prior to the 2018 season. He replaced Mike Sorber as one of the three assistant coaches before this season.

  • 2018: 51 assists
  • 2017: 46 assists
  • 2016: 43 assists
  • 2015: 43 assists

Let’s look at some of the top midfielders this year:

  • Borek Dockal: 18 assists, 5 goals, 44 shots
  • Haris Medunjanin: 7 assists, 2 goals, 44 shots
  • Alejandro Bedoya: 6 assists, 3 goals, 40 shots
  • Fafa Picault: 5 assists, 10 goals, 70 shots
  • Ilsinho: 2 assists, 6 goals, 23 shots

The real key statistics this season are goals by midfielders. If you skip ahead to see the list of top five scorers this year, you’ll see that three of them are midfielders. With the addition of Dockal this past season, Noonan helped shape the midfield to be more successful in their attacks. Noonan, himself, was a forward for Colorado, Seattle and the LA Galaxy during his playing career.

The number 10 position always seems to be one the Union are looking to fill every year, and this year is probably no different. Once the Union fills the position, Noonan should have success developing him into a strong, attacking midfielder.

Dick Schreuder: Striker Coach

Schreuder joined the Union as an assistant coach for the 2018 season. He joined as the new third assistant coach, replacing Mike Sorber. Schreuder coached a Dutch club for three-and-a-half years before joining the Union’s technical staff.

  • 2018: 49 goals, 474 shots, 168 shots on goal, 5 PK goals out of 7 attempts
  • 2017: 50 goals, 386 shots, 146 shots on goal, 5 PK goals out of 7 attempts
  • 2016: 52 goals, 425 shots, 167 shots on goal, 6 PK goals out of 8 attempts
  • 2015: 42 goals, 381 shots, 149 shots on goal, 1 PK goal out of 2 attempts

Despite the number of goals scored this season, the Union’s strikers were underwhelming. Here are the top five scorers this season:

  1. Fafa Picault: 10 goals
  2. Cory Burke: 10 goals
  3. Ilsinho: 6 goals
  4. Borek Dockal: 5 goals
  5. CJ Sapong: 4 goals

There are only two strikers on that list. After a career year last year, Sapong underwhelmed this year, Simpson didn’t see the field much, and Burke came in from the Steel to save the day. Overall, goals were lacking and Schreuder’s coaching didn’t seem to pay off this season.

During Tanner’s press conference yesterday, he stated that he sees Fafa as more of a striker than a winger, which is pretty clear based on his statistics this season. Tanner’s idea to alter the Union’s format more often and to use more than one striker is also pretty achievable based on these stats. With these possible changes in the 2019 season, Schreuder should be able to mold newer strikers into goal-scoring machines.

Tim Hanley: Goalkeeping Coach

Hanley became the goalkeeper coach prior to the 2018 season. He replaced Oak Nikolov before this season started, and this is his one and only season with the Union.

Hanley is probably heading back to the west coast where he worked with San Jose, Houston and Los Angeles before.

Here are Blake’s stats:

  • 2018: 118 saves out of 170 shots faced (69.41%), 10 shutouts
  • 2017: 88 saves out of 125 shots faced (70.4%), 9 shutouts
  • 2016: 99 saves out of 150 shots faced (66%), 6 shutouts
  • 2015: 26 saves out of 34 shots faced (76.47%), 2 shutouts

Andre Blake has definitely been trending better with every year. He records more shutouts and usually has a higher save percentage with each season. This past season Blake looked strong in the net. Hanley has been successfully coaching goalkeepers for years, so it’s not surprise that he helped Blake through a strong season this year.

The Union really embraced the position-specific coaching style this year with the three assistant coaches all focusing on one position. It can be successful in aiding Curtin and developing stronger players, so we’ll see how well it pays off in 2019.


  1. Area there any prospects for who could fill the GK coach spot yet?

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