Months after locking in Josh Wolff as head coach, Austin FC is reportedly on the verge of naming one of MLS’ best sporting directors to the same role.
The Athletic reported on Wednesday that Anthony Precourt’s Austin FC has hired Claudio Reyna from New York City FC to be the expansion club’s new sporting director. It’s the second expansion club that Reyna is working for since he joined NYCFC in 2013 as its first director of soccer operations.
If true, it’s a shrewd move by Precourt to bring in a man who knows MLS like the back of his thumb, and to pair him with a former teammate from the U.S. Men’s National Team. Wolff’s spent almost his entire career in professional soccer in MLS too, so the club now has two influential individuals who are knowledgable about the league and it’s various roster mechanisms.
Having our Sporting Director and our Coach employed a year in advance of our inaugural season demonstrates our commitment to fielding a highly competitive team right away. #AustinFC
Austin FC doesn’t enter MLS until 2021, so locking in Reyna now gives him more than a year of runway towards building an MLS-ready roster. Precourt has surely seen the best-case scenario – Seattle, Los Angeles FC, Atlanta United – where a team loaded with top-heavy talent and good role players can make a deep playoff run in its expansion season. But he’s likely also seen the worst-case scenarios – look at Minnesota United in the past and FC Cincinnati this year.
Bringing in Reyna certainly makes it more likely that Austin FC’s future will lie in the former category.
Despite a banner year for New York City FC, the club will be looking for a new coach this offseason.
NYCFC made it official on Friday, announcing that it had mutually agreed to part ways with head coach Dome Torrent after one and a half seasons in charge. The Spaniard took over for Patrick Vieira in June 2018 and led NYCFC to a third-place finish in the eastern conference in his first year.
In 2019, Torrent guided NYCFC, without David Villa, to first place in the Eastern Conference and second in all of MLS in the regular season. However, the team was bounced by Toronto FC in the MLS Cup playoffs for the third straight year in the conference semifinals page.
Its a big blow for NYCFC to have to find another coach and to lose a talented tactician in Torrent. The 57-year-old built a successful team, even with the limitations of MLS roster regulations and the Yankee Stadium field conditions. But he openly complained about not being able to spend more and sign better players after the playoff defeat at home against Toronto FC, and it may have just been time for him to move back to Europe.
For NYCFC, with Atlanta United, the Philadelphia Union and evening possibly the New England Revolution on its heels, the club will have to nail this coaching hire.
Oscar Pareja might be available, depending on how Xolos de Tijuana finish the Apertura season in Liga MX, or perhaps NYCFC could tempt Giovanni Savarese back to New York from Portland.
Jose Mourinho seems about as unlikely as anything, but he is available, after all. One thing is for sure. Like the hire of Torrent, who had been an assistant for Pep Guardiola at Manchester City beforehand and Vieira before Torrent, we can expect the City Football Group to dig into its scouting and coaching network to unearth the next coach.
Whether that means Mikel Arteta or Paul Harsley (Current Man City reserves coach) will be the next NYCFC coach remains to be seen.
Benfica loanee Parks readies for playoffs with NYCFC
Keaton Parks plays the kind of hard-to-quantify midfield role that sends both stat nerds and eye test takers to a very good place.
Barely 22, the New York City FC midfielder doesn’t stand out in any one particular area. Since arriving on loan from Benfica, the American shuttler (of sorts) ranks near the top of the club rankings in pass percentage and aerials won while chipping in tackles and successful dribbles.
He’s averaging near one key pass per game but has just a goal and an assist, due more to his responsibility in Dome Torrent’s system than a particular skill set (He has eight goals and seven assists across two-plus seasons between Varzim and Benfica B).
“In the midfield it really helps to play both sides of the ball,” Parks told ProSoccerTalk. “I take pride in doing that, and I love to make a tackle as much as getting in the attack and assisting or scoring goals. It doesn’t bother me that I’m not scoring or making all of the assists. I like to be the solid player who keeps the balance on the team.”
Parks has been an enigma to American soccer fans for some time in that he’s been in a celebrated club in Benfica but playing in a developmental role that’s near impossible to track without single-minded dedication to Portuguese football (Dramatic? Sure, but you try to catch every Liga Pro game).
But in moving to New York City FC to play under Dome Torrent, he’s had an easier transition than most due to his upbringing with Benfica, which annually ranks amongst the top possession teams in Portugal. Torrent, of course, left his last managerial gig at Girona in Spain to spent a decade-plus on Pep Guardiola‘s staff at Barcelona, Bayern Munich, and Manchester City.
“Dome likes to play a possession style, a confident style,” Parks said. “I still have to fight for my spot on the team but the playing style I was used to right away.
“You can see the experience Dome has, and he mirrors a little bit of what Pep does, so it’s been amazing to be able to learn from him and see the experiences of the players he’s been able to coach in his career.”
NYCFC begins its playoff run on Wednesday against Toronto FC at Citi Field in Queens, and Parks says he’s feeling better after missing three matches with injury.
And while he’s focused on the playoffs — “We want to win the Cup and be at the top” — there is a question of what’s next for him, still on the books at a perennial UEFA Champions League club but very important with a CONCACAF Champions League club.
“I’m just going to be looking forward to whatever club I’m at next, whether here or back at Benfica or wherever I am and also with the U-23s going into Tokyo next summer.”
He’ll, in theory, be an imperative part to Jason Kreis, ironically a former NYCFC man himself, and the Yanks bid for a first Olympic run in three cycles. The team should be powerful, and Parks is happy.
“I’m definitely excited,” he said. “We have so much talent on the team with guys playing first division all over the world. I believe we can make a run all the way to these Olympics.”
NYCFC and Toronto FC kick off 7 p.m. ET Wednesday at Citi Field.
New York City FC star Alexandru Mitrita’s very good club summer is folding into a very decent international tenure, at least individually.
Mitrita scored again on Tuesday, zipping onto your screen to steal the ball just inside half before dancing toward the 18 and lashing an opening goal for Romania in EURO 2020 qualification against Norway on Tuesday.