Two weeks ago, St. Louis City SC planted their sporting flag in the ever expanding sands of MLS when they announced Lutz Pfannenstiel as the club’s first Sporting Director. Lutz has a solid two years to develop what he sees as the club’s greatest appeal: a blank slate. A key component to hiring the intriguing German is his perspective through experience. He’s quoted in the SI.com article by Brian Straus saying, “The completely crazy CV has helped me a lot to develop into what I am, because I have a global, international approach,” Pfannenstiel said. “I’ve used this word, if I translate it correctly from German—I call it ‘intercultural competence.’”
Now with yesterday’s hires of Bernhard Peters and Mike Forde, it seems culture is Lutz’s first step in building the club, though both are hired not as full employees but as consultants.
Bernhard Peters has been dubbed a Youth Academy Development Consultant. He served in that role with TSG 1899 Hoffenheim (while Pfannenstiel was there as a scout) from 2014 to 2019 while also serving as Sporting Director for SV Hamburger in the tier below (2. Bundesliga). Previous to that, he worked as the youth co-coordinator for Hoffenheim starting in 2006. Said Peters of the new project, “We are sitting in front of a large blank sheet of paper and are planning a training center for the professionals as well as a youth performance center. It’s a great project, ”says the father of four, delighted with the task”. Peters seems to have been pushed out of Hamburg in what was described in a Sportworld article as a coup d’etat. However, Rautenperle, seemingly a supporter blog, speaks highly of the youth structure he created in Hamburg while he was there in that they are seeing the fruits of his labors in 2020.
Mike Forde is a 38 year old Englishman just oozing with experience. First of all, his work is filtered through a consulting company called Sportsology, which is based in New York and London and has, according to this listing on eaglestalent.com, built ‘talent factories’ for over 30 professional teams across 5 global sports.” Following are a few of the best parts of his resume. Mike was the Director of Football Operations and Executive Club Director for Chelsea FC during a period in which the club won the UEFA Champions League, Europa League, Premier League, as well as three FA Cups. He’s dabbled with some of the most successful NFL teams in years they’ve won or nearly won the Super Bowl. A personal favorite is that he was involved in building a model for sustained success with the San Antonio Spurs, a team known for winning despite the lack of multiple superstar players.
Being consultants, it is unclear whether these gentlemen will be long-term staff members of the club, but bringing them in during a period of building could have a lasting impression — one that could set a strong precedent for soccer in St. Louis for years to come. Says Lutz, “With Bernhard and Mike by my side, I am confident that we will build a club that will have a multitude of talents from youngsters to professionals and will play at the highest level every year.”
The first time MLS Sporting Director has his work cut out for him, as recent expansion sides have been increasingly unsuccessful on the field in their first couple of seasons. Lutz was quoted in the aforementioned article by Brian Straus as saying he would like to emulate the team building model given by teams like Atlanta United and LAFC. Those teams both won a championship in year two of competition (MLS Cup for ATL, Supporters’ Shield for LAFC). However, FC Cincinnati has 6 wins in 34 regular season games. Minnesota United placed 9th and 10th in their first two seasons before losing in the first round of the playoffs in 2019. -PG