La Velle E. Neal III
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The MLS opening kickoff is three weeks away. Our beloved Loons finally have their new soccer majordomo, Khaled El-Ahmad, in house. But they don't have their new gaffer in place.

Repeat. They still don't have a coach. They fired Adrian Heath on Oct. 6. That's well over 100 days ago. They named Sean McAuley interim coach and then replaced him with another interim, Cameron Knowles.

The players don't know their roles, they don't know what formations they will use and they might be training in a different way than the new coach will want. They don't know the vision for the season. They don't know if the coach is as emotional as Roy Hudson or as stoic as Bob Bradley.

The U.S. women's national team hired Emma Hayes as head coach in November. She's not taking over until May because she's coaching Chelsea of the Women's Super League and needs to complete the season. Like the Loons, the USWNT has an interim coach handling things. Unlike the Loons, Hayes will have two months to prepare for the Paris Olympics.

The Loons would be so lucky to have that much time.

I'm not asserting that things are a total mess at I-94 and Snelling. Emanuel Reynoso has appeared for training much earlier than last season. Teemu Pukki, Franco Fragapane and Bongi Hlongwane form an effective offensive force. Midfielder Hassani Dotson is closer to realizing his potential. Swedish defender Victor Eriksson has had success at a young age and is an intriguing addition. Outside back is a problem, and goalkeeper Dayne St. Clair needs to continue to grow. But there is talent here.

The franchise, however, seems to be in suspended animation at the moment because it is leaderless. And that's not where a team should be as a new season approaches.

I have arrived at three conclusions after monitoring these developments.

1. In most cases a coach should never have control over personnel. It worked for Bill Belichick and the Patriots until Tom Brady left, but there should be someone with expertise in transactions and operations who serves as part sounding board, part check-and-balance system for the head coach. Heath gained power to shape the roster as he wished. Now that he's gone, the Loons decided to hire two people to move forward, which is a sensible conclusion by CEO Shari Ballard.

But as MLS has grown, so has the willingness for players, coaches and executives to cross the big pond for work. The different calendars make movement between Europe and the U.S. awkward, as El-Ahmad didn't want to leave Barnsley high and dry to come here. That leads to my second conclusion...

2. MLS should consider moving its schedule to align with Europe's. Playing in minus-10 degree weather is far from optimal and doesn't make for a pleasing fan experience.

But one serious soccer person in town, whose soccer opinions I take seriously, pitched an interesting idea. Align the MLS schedule with Europe's, but include a winter break in December and January. Schedule teams from cold weather cities — about half the league — to play in the south as the season approaches and exit the coldest months. Games in Europe are played in snowstorms.

This would make it easier for MLS teams to navigate the transfer windows and allow for smoother personnel transitions. And the MLS Cup would be played in July, not early November, when it is lost among the NBA, NHL and NFL seasons.

3. The final conclusion is based on current conditions. The Loons should have pushed to buy out El-Ahmad when they announced the hire in early November. The sides agreed to allow him to leave in mid-December, but money talks. Buy him out sooner, start the visa process and get him to St. Paul. I hear the Loons are closing in on a coach, but that coach could have found a home and learned the best route to work by now if the search started sooner. Instead, there are questions among the Twin Cities soccer community about the process.

Fans actually should be optimistic. El-Ahmad looks like a fine hire. He has played, coached and scouted; was an agent; and has soccer operations expertise. And I wish I spoke five languages. Whomever he tabs as the second coach in club history undoubtedly will be qualified.

But it has taken too long for this cake to bake.