Las Vegas Lights FC made another splashy hire with the hopes Eric Wynalda can bring results with his recognizability.
Less than a week after their inaugural season ended and they announced Isidro Sanchez would not be retained as head coach, Las Vegas Lights FC made their first splash for next season. The club announced today that they hired former USMNT great Eric Wynalda to become the club’s next technical director and head coach. Social media is buzzing, including congratulatory tweets from Taylor Twellman to Alexi Lalas to Tony Meola and many more. But, the Lights hiring of El Chelis to a similar position had a similar shock value reaction on Twitter. The Lights will be banking on this choice going completely different.
Obviously, both hires were surprising and conversation-worthy. Both Chelis and Wynalda are big personalities and both have spent time in the media. Chelis brought more baggage and a questionable managerial record to the club. But, Wynalda brings little experience on the sidelines at all. He does have endless accolades as a player, but he only managed a few lower-level professional teams briefly.
OUR NEW HEAD COACH & TECHNICAL DIRECTOR IS IN THE BUILDING! Team insider @harryruiz spoke with @EricWynalda about coming back to the best city in the world! #WeAreReady #VegasWynalda pic.twitter.com/qQQZRvL1Qy
— Las Vegas Lights FC (@lvlightsfc) October 17, 2018
For a club that has been viewed as more of a sideshow than a soccer team at times, the success of this hire will be critical. While Las Vegas is a unique place that enjoys shiny, attention-catching things, these soccer fans are a legitimate bunch.
The novelty of a splash hire doesn’t last long. Remember how the Lights supporters loved Chelis’ eccentric personality and had “Free Chelis” banners after his early-season suspension? Ask those same fans how quickly it went from “Wow, this guy is so passionate and opinionated, he’s awesome” to “He doesn’t even take this seriously, I want a real manager/technical director, he’s a joke.” They loved when he got sent off and smoked the cigarette in the crowd during the preseason, but he wasn’t as funny or cool when the team was struggling to win matches and had to completely overhaul midseason the roster he put together.
Wynalda is not Chelis. He’s not as controversial or polarizing. He speaks English, German, and Spanish, while the departed technical director spoke almost exclusively Spanish. But, it’s only fair to say at this point that Wynalda is more of a hire for his potential and his name than for his managerial resume. I am confident he will take this job seriously and will have a well-thought-out plan about the club’s future. He’s a visionary and has experienced success at the highest levels as a player, so he will know what he’s looking for with his team. Hopefully this time around, the Lights will get a coach with some sizzle AND substance. The fans deserve it.