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Todd Saldana appointed LAFC academy director

Former pro, college coach comes with considerable youth soccer experience.

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Amidst the stadium talk for Los Angeles Football Club last week, there was also an update on the LAFC academy front, too.

Executive vice president of soccer operations John Thorrington revealed to reporters that Todd Saldana had been hired LAFC academy director. Saldana, 54, is a former pro player from 1980-89, featuring for the Los Angeles Aztecs, San Jose Earthquakes and Tulsa Roughnecks in the original NASL as well as the Ft. Lauderdale Sun, LA Heat and California Kickers.

Saldana also worked as a college coach, serving as an assistant at UCLA, then taking the head coaching jobs at Cal Poly Pomona and then Loyola Marymount. In 1999, he was hired as the head coach of the UCLA men’s team, replacing Sigi Schmid, who moved to take over at the LA Galaxy.

Saldana was fired by UCLA after three seasons, due to an accusation he had received his college degree from a non-accredited diploma mill in Louisiana, a charge he has long contested. Since then, he has worked in youth soccer in Southern California, forging a path with the South Bay Force, who he helped make a partnership with local youth powerhouse Pateadores, who in turn created an alliance with the LA Galaxy. Saldana helped develop Galaxy pros Jose Villarreal and Gyasi Zardes as a result of those connections. He’s also founded and led the California Rush youth program, and has been a technical advisor to the U.S. Soccer Federation the past two years.

Thorrington discussed Saldana’s credentials briefly when revealing his hiring.

“Todd has obviously been around,” he said. “[We’re] really grateful that we could get him. He’s been involved in youth soccer, he’s from LA, he knows LA, he knows the pockets. He knows where the talent is.”

Thorrington also mentioned Saldana being the victim of bad timing as far as his own playing career not being recognized more widely.

“It’s not recognized enough because people don’t know — he was sort of that lost generation of players — but if he were growing up now, everybody would be talking about him. He’s older than me but I certainly heard a lot about how talented a player he was and he became a pro.

“For a multitude of reasons he’s the perfect guy to lead the charge for our academy.”

Exciting times, as another piece in the club-building project for LAFC comes together.

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