Seeing an ex is never easy. It’s awkward, there’s never really a right thing to say, and thousands of people are going to be pissed off when they walk in. Chris Armas got all of those things when he returned to Red Bull Arena last weekend as the head coach of Toronto FC.
The 16th man to ever lead the New York Red Bulls was boo-ed and heckled by many of the fans in attendance over the weekend. It wasn’t just the super fans in the South Ward either, as when Armas was announced with the rest of the TFC lineup the entire arena voiced their collective displeasure.
When Amro Tarek took to twitter following New York’s 2-0 win he let his own feelings on the situation be known.
“Well deserved 3 points against a top opponent, but absolutely unacceptable the way some fans were insulting Chris Armas from the stands! He’s someone who was apart of this team in the past and did nothing but worked hard every single day. Be better! Do better!”
It’s no secret that Armas wasn’t popular with the fans especially during the tail-end of his tenure. Coming in as a replacement to Jesse Marsch, the most successful head coach the team has ever had, was always going to put him in a hole. But when people are verbally calling for your firing one year after Supporter’s Shield, with “Fire Armas” becoming as common a lexicon as “That’s so Metro”, it speaks volumes.
His results over two years, which include starting mid-season and getting dismissed early on in the COVID delayed 2020 season, have him with the sixth most games coached and sixth most games won (a winning percentage of 46.5%). On paper his results are mediocre and the 2018 shield can’t fully be credited to him though he was a definite part of it.
However in those mediocre stats lives more detail that go behind the numbers.
The franchise’s worst losing streak in 2019, starting the season off 1-2-4 and going winless for five straight (with only one draw) sticks with people. The team never recovered from losing Tyler Adams during the previous offseason and the aging Bradley Wright-Phillips was inconsistent when he wasn’t on the sideline injured. The roster wasn’t totally his fault but it never seemed as though he was using the pieces that he had to the best of their ability.
It’s a double edge sword when a league leading 18 players score during the regular season but an aging Daniel Royer leads the group with 14 goals across all competitions (even only counting the regular season goals he still led with 11 at that). Brian White and Tom Barlow never really developed into MLS caliber players under Armas while others like Marc Rzatkowski sort of just averaged out.
So in conclusion, did Coach Armas deserve the treatment he got last weekend? I think booing a subpar coach is usually justified and it isn’t like the New York native was a mainstay in Harrison (he never played there while he was an active player). However, while booing is one thing the line should be drawn somewhere for an inoffensive coach. Armas may have struggled results wise but many players still speak highly of him, and the respect he showed staff and media during his time was always known.
He doesn’t need to be loved or revered but at the end of the day he didn’t cripple the team nor did he cause any harm. For another NYC comparison, Giants fans have every right to boo Ben McAdoo if he ever returns to Metlife. But on that same token, I’m not sure if Rangers fans would mercilessly boo David Quinn if he ever gets another job in the National Hockey League. Armas is somewhere in-between those two examples and last weekend at Red Bull Arena I believe the fans hit that note.