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Salt Lake tabs Ellinger to be coach

in contrast maybe to the big-name, older, foreign allocation players that marked the league's early years -- is a very significant trend in our league right now.

"In my opinion, no coach that might be available to coach our team knows the young American player and very importantly, also the young players throughout the CONCACAF region and the South American region as well as John Ellinger."

Ellinger has presided over perhaps the most successful program in U.S. men's national team history. During his seven years at the helm of the U-17s, Ellinger led the team to its best finish at a World Championship, finishing fourth in the 1999 FIFA Under-17 World Championship. On the way to the third-place game at that tournament, the club compiled a 15-month, 25-match unbeaten streak, the longest in the history of any U.S. men's national team program.

Ellinger has also been given credit for helping to develop the play of some of the most talented young players in MLS, including D.C. United forward Freddy Adu and MetroStars midfielder Eddie Gaven.

The task now will be for Ellinger to convert that success to the professional ranks, where his experience is limited to assisting Tom Fitzgerald with the Columbus Crew in 1996. Fortunately for Ellinger, many of the players he may be dealing with have come through the youth national team set-up.

"I'm in tune with the current player crop," he said. "A lot of the players that have come through our ranks are doing very well in the league, so it gives me a comfort zone upon entering the league, and I think that helped me when I entered in Columbus.

"Formerly I was coaching the national B team/amateur team, and arriving in Columbus, there were 11 players I had coached. I feel the same way entering into Salt Lake City."

Ellinger may have a slight advantage over other MLS coaches in January when the 2005 MLS SuperDraft takes place because of his connections with the Nike Project-40 players who are likely to be on the draft list. As both Ellinger and Pastorino pointed out, though, there is no way to tell right now how the club will shape its strategy for the SuperDraft because of the uncertainty about which players they will take in the expansion draft in late November.

Right from the start, expectations will be high in Salt Lake City as the league's 12th club tries to recreate the success of one of the teams in the last round of MLS expansion: the Chicago Fire, who made good use of the expansion draft and their allocation and discovery allotments to build a championship team in their inaugural season.

"I think everyone knows what Chicago did when they had their expansion draft," Pastorino said. "It's a tough act to follow, but we hope to follow in their footsteps."

Pastorino said the club has signed Ellinger to a three-year contract, emphasizing that while short-term success is desired and expected, the club will be designed to be successful in the long run as well.

Jason Halpin is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.


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