Former MLSers thrive in club academy coaching roles
FRISCO, Texas — Gazing at the sidelines during the Toronto FC vs. Philadelphia U-17 game on Sunday was like looking into MLS past.
Manning the sidelines for each squad were former MLS players — Danny Dichio and Jim Brennan for Toronto FC, and Alecko Eskandarian and Jim Curtin for Philadelphia Union — a growing trend in academy circles around the league.
“I think it’s a good thing,” Curtin told MLSsoccer.com of players going the coaching route. “The more ex-players that get involved, the better. It’s a newer league, still unique rules we’re familiar with.”
Dichio enthusiastically agreed.
“It’s fantastic," he said. "It’s a great opportunity for myself and for Jimmy to pass on to the young kids."
The finish to that particular game was a wild one as Toronto’s late equalizer forced penalty kicks. Toronto eventually won the ensuing shootout in a thrilling 9-8 conclusion, but it gave former on-field foes a chance to battle wits on the sideline.
Those weren’t the only former MLSers down in Frisco for the Generation adidas Cup. The recently retired Chris Klein took over as LA Galaxy Academy youth director last December, and Judah Cooks has been coaching D.C. United’s Under-18 team for the past few years.
As their players are going through the test of a competition like the Generation adidas Cup, it’s also a chance for the young coaches to grow and learn to leave the playing instincts behind.
“We’re all young coaches and we’re learning a lot,” Curtin said. “There’s moments during the game where you can see Danny and Jimmy would like to run out there as well as me and Alecko and help out when things are going good or bad.
“It’s different when you’re watching it because they’re out there on their own, you hope you prepared them as best you could.”
Curtin and Eskandarian (pictured above, at far left and far right, during their playing days) in particular have been working together for only a short time as the latter recently came on as the Union’s youth technical director. The two were teammates at Chivas USA, which helps the adjustment process.
“We’re familiar with each other, we challenge each other,” Curtin said. “I’m more the defensive mind, he’s the attacking mind so it’s good.”
Travis Clark covers D.C. United, college and youth soccer for MLSsoccer.com. Follow him on Twitter: @travismclark