Los Angeles Football Club broke ground on Banc of California Stadium on Tuesday, but there was also a bit of room for soccer talk.
LAFC executive vice president of soccer operations John Thorrington answered a handful of questions from reporters following the groundbreaking ceremony, and the biggest topic certainly surrounded the search for the MLS expansion team’s first head coach.
With longtime Seattle Sounders coach Sigi Schmid departing his post in July, speculation immediately linked him to LAFC, in large part due to his longtime ties to Southern California. Schmid grew up in the area, coached UCLA and at one point the LA Galaxy, too.
And Schmid himself fueled the links recently, saying he still wanted to coach and was interested in the LAFC job.
So is the interest mutual? Thorrington would not tip his hand in naming Schmid a candidate for the job.
“I know Sigi,” he said. “We’ve gone back a long way, both being from the area. I’ve known Sigi probably since I was 14, when he was coaching UCLA, he coached me with youth national teams. Much of that information should remain privileged in terms of where we’re at with – and I’m not referring to just specifically Sigi, but the coaching search in general and I think the benefit of us, our ownership group, days like today that make statements of what this club is going to be about, what the project will entail, is incredibly appealing to coaches from around the world.
“I knew there would be a strong level of interest but I have been pleasantly surprised at the caliber of coach and player who would be excited and jump at the chance to join us.”
When pressed further, Thorrington held firm in deflecting from publicly naming Schmid as a candidate.
“I will say this: I know Sigi, I know him very well, I know better than anyone the strengths he would bring to an organization. I have always really really respected him as a man, as a person, as a coach. He beat me a few too many times for me not to have respect for him as a coach, so I’m well aware of the reasons that you would connect those dots.”
As for the search more widely, Thorrington said the timeline was that LAFC needed a coach in place by January 2018, ahead of the team’s inaugural season, but pinning down a hiring goal prior to that point was difficult.
“A lot of that is a function of things that are outside of our control, whether it be a current contractual status, employment, what have you,” he said. “Some of it will be a function of other things. I think again, we are not setting a timeline and saying ‘We’re going to get the best person that’s available at such and such a date.’ We are in the process of making sure we go after the right guy and I think we will have the resources and the narrative to tell someone and the project, that we will get the right guy.”
All that said, Thorrington said he was “comfortable with the stage we’re at” in the coaching search and that members of the ownership group were involved in the process, too.
In reading the tea leaves, it seems likely LAFC will hire and announce their head coach sometime in 2017. Of course, that was probably always the plan, but with the calendar slowly inching towards March 2018, whoever is the first head coach will probably join next year.
As ever, we’ll have more coverage of this story as it develops.
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