LOS ANGELES – Playing experience, in Europe and MLS. Knowledge of the business side of soccer in the classroom and on the ground. And perhaps most important, having local connections.
Those were the qualities that LAFC landed as they unveiled former MLS midfielder John Thorrington as executive vice president of soccer operations at a press conference on Tuesday. The move makes him the latest former player to enter the management ranks in MLS.
The 36-year-old, who retired as a player in 2013 after a nine-year stint in the league with D.C. United, Vancouver Whitecaps and Chicago Fire, has spent the interim period working with the MLS Players’ Union and working on his MBA at Northwestern University. And he emphasized his roots, having grown up in Southern California, in taking on the challenge of building the soccer side of the expansion club.
“Our club will provide opportunities for the youth in our community that I never had,” Thorrington told reporters.
LAFC president Tom Penn explained that Thorrington, who was brought into contact with the club by LAFC managing partner Henry Nguyen, impressed in a professional setting right away.
“When I met John it was at our sports management summit in Chicago that I do every year,” Penn told MLSsoccer.com. “John was able to come attend the summit with the leading sports executives from around pro sports. I loved what I saw in him. He’s razor-sharp, he beams with brightness, and then he’s curious and wants to be creative. He’s loyal to the city, he’s from here.”
“… He has a particular passion about every level at the club, the senior level through the development level and all the way down to the youth system. He’s got great insights, ideas. He’s lived it and is the perfect guy to create all that.”
LAFC is not slated to begin MLS play until 2018, but the club has just more than two years to build the entire soccer side of operations, from the senior team roster and coaching staff down to the youngest levels of the academy. While Thorrington acknowledged he’s already on the lookout for potential first-team players and coaches, the immediate priority is launching an academy.
“What we are going to be doing is very intentional about building from the bottom up,” he told MLSsoccer.com .“So I’m starting there, that’s my top priority, is to start developing our academy, and we are going to take probably a different focus from most in that we’re starting from the ground up. I think these two years provide an amazing opportunity for us to set that foundation to put ourselves in the best possible position come 2018.”
Thorrington also discussed his belief that LAFC needed a philosophy before embarking on signing players and hiring coaches at all levels. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the approach he identified was balancing aesthetic style and tangible results.
“I think it’s important we represent this city well,” he said. “And how I would describe that in my words is the style will be creative, it will be dynamic, it’ll be fast paced and it’ll be ambitious. But that stylistic side needs to be balanced with substance… It’ll be a team that plays with ‘controlled aggression,’ I’m stealing a term from my playing days, and an absolutely relentless pursuit of that.”