American coach Jeff “Ziggy” Korytoski guided his Coatepeque side to a 1-0 win against Comunicaciones on Sunday, the first loss handed to the traditional Guatemalan power this young season. It launched his club out of the relegation zone and into sixth place in the twelve-team first division. So why is he about to get fired?
If you find out, he’d like to know.
“I still have a job.” Korytoski told Goal USA late Monday night. “I don’t know if that’s going to change in the next 24 hours or 48 hours. I haven’t spoken with anybody at this moment, so I’m probably more in the dark than the local media and everybody else.”
The local media doesn’t think he’s got much of a shot. “Coatepeque’s victory won’t save manager Ziggy Korytoski,” Guatefutbol concluded after talking with the club’s interim president, Amado Anleu. Anleu said it was possible that some members of the staff could continue on, but Korytoski wouldn’t be present.
The comments won’t shock the coach, who has heard rumblings for more than a week that he’s going to be out of a job. The club, Korytoski admits, stumbled a bit out of the gates, losing its home opener, but came away with four points from its first three road matches. “We were only four games in when all this stuff started hitting the fan, you know?” he said.
Getting put on the chopping block four weeks into a 22-round season makes even David Moyes’ situation seem enviable. But despite persistent reports he’d be fired, Korytoski and his staff continued preparations for the weekend’s daunting match against Comunicaciones, the club that has won the previous three titles.
“We were told we were out before we got to Comunicacions, and we prepared and we beat them 1-0,” Korytoski said. “We brought the guys back (Monday) and did a regeneration session. We prepared and we’ll prepare tomorrow and we’ll continue to prepare until they tell us we can’t do it anymore. It’s kind of out of our hands right now.”
The situation has been out of the staff’s control since the club president who brought Korytoski to the top division from a second-tier club in Guatemala was removed from his post. That president, Ronaldo Samayoa, had promised to take a slow approach with the man he hired. “We'll be fine,” Samayoa said in October, days after he hired Korytoski as one of the few Americans coaching in a foreign first division. “I like his project, the way he works, we'll keep him for a while, and I know for a fact he will change not only the culture but our standing position.”
But with the club’s board of directors and some fans growing restless, Samayoa was sent packing, and Korytoski will almost certainly be next. The only explanation the coach can think of is that there’s a political situation involved. It’s frustrating for the former Cal-Poly San Luis Obispo assistant, who says Samayoa’s vision of a culture change is nearly complete with a talented team in place that the coach is sure can stay in the top division.
“We rebuilt the team, reshaped the team in my opinion,” Korytoski said when he took over during the Apertura. “We brought in a number of very good players, MLS prospects in my opinion and international prospects. They did very well, it just takes a little bit of time to jell.
“We started at the end of December and we kicked off in January and right now we’re just seeing the fruits of their labor. They’ve worked very hard. It’s a good team.”
Though it looks like the Massachusetts native won’t be able to see out his term, he’s planning to press on until he’s told otherwise. He says he hasn’t been contacted by anyone in the administration, including the acting president, and most of his information is coming from the media. Even though he’s hoping he’ll be able to stay on with Las Serpientes, he said he’s ready to listen to other offers with a forced departure seeming imminent. Korytoski wouldn’t mind returning to the United States and catching on with a USL side or as a MLS assistant, especially with his son approaching school age.
“I think the club has made it very clear they want to go in another direction, and it’s just a matter of time,” he said. “To me, it’s a matter of when. I’m okay with it. I’m going to continue to work and go win one game at a time until they tell me no more.”
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