As the offseason continues, the Republic are building towards the 2020 season with eyes not only on the upcoming season, but the years ahead as the team prepares to make the jump to Major League Soccer. With the 2022 promotion looming, the franchise decided to go in a different direction at manager, parting ways with Head Coach Simon Elliott and assistant coach Benjamin Zimmer.
Four weeks removed from that decision, the club has yet to appoint a new head coach and technical staff. With the season a short four months away, now would be a good time to choose Elliott’s successor and start building and working with the roster for 2020.
Upon news that Elliott would not be returning, General Manager Todd Dunivant made a point about referencing how the club is not only looking to win now, but also build towards their MLS promotion in 2022. He also added that the club wants a head coach that can build up the academy program and help promote youth players through the ranks. Ultimately, these two years before promotion will be crucial in determining who makes the jump with the team. Having a head coach that will develop talent while putting a winner on the field week in, week out will be vital.
Perhaps this decision has been slightly delayed due to interest in collegiate coaches who are in the middle of the NCAA tournament. If the desire for a ‘program builder’ is there, the college ranks are a great place to look for prospective head coaches. It is likely too soon to lure a big name head coach from MLS to take over in Sacramento, but the jump from a college program to a club with MLS on the horizon is likely big enough to attract someone from the collegiate scene.
There should be two coaches from the college ranks that appeal to the Republic, Jeremy Gunn of Stanford and Sasho Cirovski of Maryland. Both have developed some incredible players, and both have created strong programs that have found continued success.
Starting with Gunn, the Cardinal coach has created a powerhouse in the Bay Area during his seven seasons at the helm. Stanford has five Pac-12 Championships and three NCAA Championships under Gunn and have been the epitome of college soccer in recent years. Gunn has built a championship caliber program while developing players like Seattle Sounders forward Jordan Morris, Chicago Fire defender Brandon Vincent, and LA Galaxy defender Tomas Hilliard-Arce.
Gunn’s track record is impressive in both finding success and developing talent. In addition, Gunn is familiar with the talent pool in Northern California, a good plus in terms of attracting talent to the Republic’s academy program. The Cardinal are still playing in the NCAA Tournament, however, so any move for Gunn will likely have to wait until they are done with their tournament run.
The other top collegiate coach the Republic should consider is Sasho Cirovski, the long-time University of Maryland coach. The Terapins were eliminated from the NCAA Tournament last week, meaning Cirovski is approachable at this point, but he may be a hard coach to pry from the comfort of college soccer.
Since 1993 Cirovski has coached the Maryland soccer program, finding plenty of success over the last 26 years. Cirovski has created a juggernaut at Maryland, compiling 25 consecutive winning seasons and 24 postseason appearances. In addition, the Terapins have nine conference championships and three national championships under Cirovski’s guidance.
The success is evident, yet that is only the tip of the iceberg with Cirovski. When it comes to player development there may not be a better coach at the collegiate level. Cirovski has coached and developed countless successful players like Maurice Edu, Omar Gonzalez, Robbie Rogers, Taylor Twellman, Patrick Mullins, Zack Steffen, and former Republic captain Jeremy Hall. That is more than enough evidence of his skills in player development, something the club is looking for in the next head coach.
Luring Cirovski from the comfort of the college scene is surely a challenging prospect, but the potential of developing a team to compete at the highest level of American soccer may be a challenge Cirovski would leave Maryland for.
Whether it is one of these two, or someone else from a litany of options, the Republic should not enter the 2020 calendar year without a head coach. Ideally the club reaches a decision soon and appoints the fourth head coach in club history.