Chris Armas: “It’s important that the kids enjoy the game again.” (Michael Lewis/

By Michael Lewis Editor

FRANKLIN SQUARE, N.Y. – The coach shouted some familiar instructions to his team during a recent summer tournament game.

“Don’t get stretched!”

“Tight! Tight!”

“Good, Max. You’re in a good spot!”

“Keep moving, Chris!”

“Don’t drop too far!”

“Not one to chase!”

“Come on, guys, sharper!”

Except this was not just any other coach who was guiding the N.Y. Hota Bavarians Under-23 squad in the Ryder-Vass tournament, the annual summer competition of the Long Island Soccer Football League.

That was Chris Armas.

Yes, the same Chris Armas who starred for the U.S. men’s national team, LA Galaxy, Chicago Fire and who coached the New York Red Bulls and Toronto FC and as an assistant coach with Manchester United and Leeds United.

The 50-year-old Armas is a coach without a professional team, but not without a club. His sons, Chris and Alexi, formed an Under-23 team to compete in the Long Island Soccer Football League’s summer talent and asked their father to coach the team.

“I said, of course,” the senior Armas remarked.

It certainly was a unique opportunity for Armas, who had coached his sons when they were youth players.

“These games are fun games to be part of, seeing all the kids play free. That’s my goal. Give them some direction and some tactical ideas, but more so to help them from a physical standpoint, technical standpoint, just get sharp into the into their season.”

That is closer than you think. College teams begin preseason preparation in August.

“It’s important that the kids enjoy the game again,” Armas said. “Sometimes when the college season starts it’s pressure again, it’s pressure to get minutes, which become limited for some guys. We get guys lots of minutes where they can just express themselves. That’s what I think I’ve enjoyed being part of the game. They’ve won a few games. They all want to win but for me, the most important thing is getting 18 guys on the same page and let them enjoy the game.”

Including his sons, who both will play for Adelphi University this fall. Chris, 21, will play as a graduate student, and Alexi, 18, will be a sophomore.

Armas coached his sons in local clubs when he was in Chicago, and on Long Island until they were 12, when he decided it was good for them to learn from other coaches.

“My voice was important,” he said. “Once they hit 12, they go on their own and experience other coaches’ different voices, not their parents’. It was important that my wife and I wanted let them experience the social aspect without their dad around.”

Now, Alexi and Chris are young adults, with years of experience under their belts, and are ready to step up their games.

“I really enjoy each of them as players,” Armas said. “They’re good kids. They’re good human beings. If I were a college coach, I’d recruit them. Good mentalities. They each have something interesting as soccer players. That’s always [been] the recruitment formula at MLS, in the [English] Premier League. U.S. national team and when I was a college coach, we look for good people who are good players, that have something that you can work with that are open and hungry. Both of them have that. So, I actually really enjoy it.”

Having his sons several years older and more mature certainly can help get the message across from their father.

“When they were 12 years old it’s not always easy when you give information because I’m still the dad giving it,” Armas said. “I’m very proactive and mindful of how much I say, how long I talk in those moments and just try to get in and out with my comments, just to get them to think about certain things. And then now as young adults, it’s nice having real soccer conversations with them. I find them reaching out for those conversations more these days.”

On the professional end, it has been a difficult three years for Armas, who was sacked as head coach by two Major League Soccer teams during the pandemic and lost another as an assistant when he top man was axed several months ago.

He was fired by the Red Bulls on Sept. 4, 2020, following a 1-0 loss to D.C. United, despite outshooting the visitors, 17-5, as the team dropped to 3-4-2 following the MLS is Back tournament, after the league canceled the first four months of the season due to the COVID-19 outbreak. The Red Bulls were inconsistent at best this season, punchless on the attack, at worst.

Armas took over for Jesse Marsch, who was named head coach of Red Bull Leipzig in 2018.

“You got to build something,” he said. “We had some ups and downs, but I got let go when we were in sixth or seventh place. It’s [the team has been] teetering in and around that same area for a long time. I think the work was pretty good with a younger Tom Barlow, with a younger [Cristian] Casseres, with a young roster. We lost Tyler Adams, Bradley Wright-Phillips. It is what it is.”

In January 2021, Armas was named Toronto FC head coach, but never got an opportunity to finish the season as he was given the pink slip that July 4 after a 7-1 loss to D.C. United. Armas had a three-year contract.

He noted that Canadian-based sports teams could not travel back and forth between the two countries due to the pandemic. So, Toronto FC essentially was on one long road trip, calling Orlando, Fla. home, without friends, family and loved ones.

The Brentwood, N.Y. native admitted that he did see that sacking coming. Toronto was 1-8-2 at the time.

“That was almost stunning,” he said. “Which coach would get nine games, none at home. It was a COVID situation. This was for me was really disappointing. There was work to do as Bob Bradley saw. He made lots of the changes that I also understood needed to happen.”

Bradley, who replaced Armas as head coach in November 2021, was given the pink slip by Toronto FC on June 23. It should be noted that Toronto FC has been one of the most volatile MLS franchises when it comes to replacing head coaches. Since its 2007 expansion season, the team has employed 10 head coaches and three interim head coaches.

Armas had signed a three-year contract,

“Why in the world, with a roster that needs turnover?” he asked about a team and a roster that he inherited that needed turnover. “This is the end of the cycle. This is what my message was like coming in. We understood exactly where they’re at with that roster. It was at the end of that cycle.”

Some players, such as former USMNT forward Jozy Altidore were not producing. The quality of the roster was not up to snuff.

“Some of the young guys coming through were very, very young at the time,” Armas said. “I think we can see now that that definitely was the case. … Lots of things that were not operating to par. Sometimes you’ve got to change the players, sometimes you and got to change the manager. Nine games in, it was stunning.”

Armas was an assistant coach under interim head coach Ralf Rangnick during a six-month stint at Manchester United that ended in May 2022.

On Jan. 25 of this year, Armas joined former Red Bulls head coach Jesse Marsch as his assistant with Leeds. Twelve days later on Feb. 6, Marsch was sacked, leaving Armas in a lame duck role. Fifteen days later on Feb. 21, Leeds hired Javi Garcia as the new manager.

That’s how crazy hirings and firings on EPL clubs can be.

“I wasn’t stunned, but I was surprised because in that world and in that business, things change quickly,” Armas said. “I had a contract coming in. I knew how much they wanted me to come help Jesse. That was very genuine. But in that league, things can turn quickly when decisions are made from the top, the very top if they say they want to change. The change happens despite some of the strategic moves that the sporting directors were doing to try to bolster the team.

“I had to just figure out this situation over the next course of about a month and a half while I was there. When the new staff came in, I wasn’t part of one training session. … They didn’t need my services anymore. I was grateful that gave me the chance. Honestly, it’s another experience even though it was quick, it was just really interesting to see that club. It’s an amazing club with big supporters.”

Armas negotiated a settlement with Leeds.

His ultimate goal is to return to MLS as a head coach or perhaps somewhere in Europe. Until an opportunity pops up, he is taking advantage of his free time with Hota and his sons. He also is tackling the UEFA A license coaching course. Some of it is virtual, but he will have to journey to England in the future to complete it.

“I’m trying to sharpen my tools, trying to be innovative with how I’m training and seeing the game and within the philosophy that I’ve evolved over time. The UEFA course has been really interesting. But I’m always open if I can work back in Europe. But for me, I think something in MLS, a head coaching role in the league. At some point if there’s the right situation where someone wants someone like me with my philosophy and experiences, leadership. I think I can go to that. It also fits.”

For the time being, Armas is focused on one team.

“I really enjoy the hungry athlete at this age,” he said. “They’re hungry for a little information. They’re hungry for a little bit of direction. They’re hungry for enjoyment through the game. So, it’s easy. These guys give me energy. Game day it’s always fun because you get to watch them enjoy game. I’ve enjoyed every training session with them. Everyone’s committed to what we’re doing here.

“I love the kids. I love the people. I love competition. … It’s been good.”

Until then, Armas will get a rare satisfaction for any coach – directing his adult sons – and see how they and Hota progress this summer.



Front Row Soccer editor Michael Lewis has covered 13 World Cups (eight men, five women), seven Olympics and 25 MLS Cups. He has written about New York City FC, New York Cosmos, the New York Red Bulls and both U.S. national teams for Newsday and has penned a soccer history column for the Lewis, who has been honored by the Press Club of Long Island and National Soccer Coaches Association of America, is the former editor of He has written seven books about the beautiful game and has published ALIVE AND KICKING The incredible but true story of the Rochester Lancers. It is available at