More change is coming for the Houston Dynamo, and this time it will be on the touchline.
Gone are assistant coach Steve Ralston and goalkeeper coach Tim Hanley, who tendered their resignations on Monday. In their place Houston on Wednesday announced the hiring of Alexander “Sandy” Stewart to take over as primary assistant for new head coach Owen Coyle, while Paul Caffrey enters to fill in a new position as director of sports performance/strength and conditioning coach.
They will join current assistant coach Wade Barrett on Coyle’s new-look staff.
“We’re definitely going through an era of significant change,” club president Chris Canetti told MLSsoccer.com. “This is what happens when the only head coach you’ve had for nine years leaves and you address it head on. Piece by piece we’re going through a transition and all of it is positive. It’s going to take some time to mesh and for everybody to adapt, but so far it’s been a seamless process.”
During his introductory press conference in early December, Coyle had expressed his desire that all three members of Kinnear's staff would stay on to aid in his transition to MLS. Since that time, Ralston and Hanley have decided to move on to opportunities outside the club.
With a vacant position, Stewart, who was a member of Coyle’s staff at his previous four stops, was an obvious choice.
“He’s obviously worked at the very highest level, so it’s a great appointment,” Coyle told MLSsoccer.com during a phone interview. “It’s a great addition, while also having Wade there. He’s good with the players as well. It covers every facet and dimension we look for.”
Stewart will take the seat next to Coyle and offer the same guidance he has in previous stops at Wigan, Bolton and Burnley and St. Johnstone. According to the new Dynamo boss, Stewart and Barrett will work closely together and be “hands-on” with the club during training sessions.
While Stewart will have to learn the intricacies of MLS – something Barrett will surely help with – the club is still on the hunt for a goalkeeper coach. That position will likely be filled by someone boasting MLS experience before training camp opens.
Caffrey, who has spent time with Chivas USA, the Colorado Rapids and the U.S. soccer system, will join Houston to head up strength and conditioning, a point of emphasis for the club this offseason.
“Bringing in a strength and conditioning coach is vital to the club,” Canetti said. “It’s important for us to be ahead of the curve as it relates to sports science and strength and conditioning.”
Added Coyle: “We spoke with people two or three times, and for me Paul shone through like a beacon. Moving forward I feel very strongly that we have a very strong team that I know we can go in and deliver and know the game inside out with a wealth of experience.”
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Change will hit the front office as well with Nick Kowba promoted from director of soccer operations to assistant general manager. The nine-year Dynamo veteran will take on an expanded role with the Dynamo that includes more player personnel duties.
“He’s ready to play a bigger role, and as we evolve the soccer operations have a lot of moving parts and we need more capable people involved,” Canetti said. “Nick’s the perfect guy to step up.”
The staff’s first stop will be the 2015 adidas MLS Player Combine January 8-13 and then the MLS SuperDraft in Philadelphia on January 15.
Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com.