McGuinness takes big step by landing USA managerial role

The former Donegal GAA boss has been hired by a team which plays in the United Soccer League (USL) – which is now the established second tier below the MLS.

It will be fascinating to see how McGuinness (below) adapts to the challenge of being number one in his adopted sport.

He did gain experience on the periphery of Finn Harps and Derry City in his younger days before leading Donegal to All-Ireland success in 2012.

Two months later, he joined Celtic on a part-time basis as a performance coach before eventually becoming a full-time employee while gaining his badges.

He stated his intention to move towards management and moved to China last year to serve as assistant with Beijing Sinobo Guoan after striking up a friendship with their boss Roger Schmidt.

That stay ended after six months due to family reasons and McGuinness has been out of work since then and mulling over his options.

The opportunity comes with North Carolina-based Charlotte Independence and McGuinness was sourced as part of their recruitment process for a head coach.

He will join a league that is expanding and improving after a power struggle with the rival NASL in the bid for official recognition as the level below MLS.

The NASL effectively collapsed and the USL has grown to the extent where there are now three divisions within it. Charlotte will play in the USL Championship, while there are two new levels below it – USL League One and USL League Two.

As it stands, there will be 36 teams in the Championship divided into two conferences.

That includes seven new teams with the professional game evolving at a rapid rate in the US.

McGuinness is going in at a level which has proved popular for players in the League of Ireland that are willing to travel in search of new opportunities and stable contracts combined with a good lifestyle.

Experienced Dubliner James Chambers is the captain of the USL’s Bethlehem Steel.

Former Dundalk defender Paddy Barrett will be playing with Indy (Indianapolis) Eleven in 2019 after leaving FC Cincinnati following their acceptance into the MLS.

Ex-Sligo Rovers midfielder Richie Ryan has been retained by Cincinnati for their step up.

Steven Beattie has left Cork City to take up with newly-founded USL League One side Chattanooga Red Wolves SC – Eamon Zayed has also signed up with them.

The USL Championship also features the second teams of a number of MLS sides and attendances vary dramatically.

Charlotte are one of the smaller operations with a 5,000-capacity stadium.

It will bring McGuinness into a competitive level that can be a springboard to better things.

Irishman James O’Connor was appointed by MLS side Orlando on the strength of his work with Louisville City in the USL.

US soccer legend Eric Wynalda is the boss of a new team from Las Vegas.

Didier Drogba played at USL level with Phoenix Rising in the season just gone but opted to retire at the end of it.

Charlotte finished 11th last season, seven points off the play-offs that decide the league winners. Their new campaign kicks off in March.

Club president Jim McPhilliamy said: “Jim has a proven track record as both a coach who gets the best out of players and also as a winner. That is a very appealing combination.

“With Jim as head coach and our experienced management team, we believe we are now ideally positioned to compete strongly in the USL Championship in 2019 and beyond.”

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Irish Independent