Ricardo Ansaldi isn’t sure yet exactly what his day-to-day duties will be as the newest member of the Philadelphia Union’s technical staff.
But he is sure of one thing.
“I will be carrying my passport all the time,” Ansaldi told MLSsoccer.com by telephone from Argentina on Wednesday.
Indeed, the Union’s new director of international player development – who was hired earlier this month to help fill a void left by last season’s dismissal of former sporting director Diego Gutiérrez – will be shuttling back and forth from Philadelphia to South America, where he will do most of his scouting work.
Ansaldi, a native of Argentina, has deep ties to the continent, saying that the “number of players is very rich” and that more and more of them would like to play in the United States.
“Every time there is a discussion or just a coffee conversation with Argentineans about soccer, I always bring the work of US Soccer and MLS as an example of doing things the right way,” he said.
This is Ansaldi’s first job in MLS but as the founder of Premier Soccer Tours, a company that sets up games and tournaments for US teams traveling to South America, he has worked with MLS clubs like Sporting Kansas City, Real Salt Lake and Seattle in the past to help organize their preseason camps.
That’s also how he met John Hackworth – back when the Union manager brought his US U-17 teams to South America in the mid-2000s. The two immediately hit it off, and shortly after Hackworth took over as Union manager in the middle of the 2012 season, Ansaldi wrote him a half-joking email that said, “OK, I will be glad to be there.” Knowing all he could bring to the franchise in terms of networking and identifying talent, the Union ended up taking him up on his offer months later.
“One of the things I believe is you should surround yourself with good people and people who are smarter than you – and I think he fits both of those categories,” Hackworth said. “He’s one of the best in the business at knowing how to navigate the soccer world, especially South America. He has excellent contacts at the highest-level clubs. Having someone on the ground like Ricardo is really important for us. … Every club around the world goes to South America to find players.”
Hackworth recently went to Argentina with Ansaldi, saying when he returned that a signing was “really likely” based on that trip. Ansaldi, who stayed behind in Buenos Aires, agreed with that assessment, adding that the team “is very close” to pulling the trigger on at least one new deal.
“There are a couple of players we would like to have,” Ansaldi said. “The problem is getting the numbers to fit within our budget. We’re trying to put the puzzle together at this moment.”
Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. E-mail him at email@example.com.