Arizona United Soccer Club, the new USL PRO franchise in Phoenix, has reiterated time and again that it just wants to do things the right way and at the right pace.
That may just be the case with its head coaching hire. Arizona United, which took control of the franchise rights earlier this month and has just 15 days left to form a roster before its first ever match, announced on Friday it has hired the top assistant coach of the Maryland men’s soccer program, Michael Dellorusso, as its head coach.
At 30 years old, Dellorusso may be the youngest head coach in U.S. professional soccer. He has never held a professional coaching gig but he has earned a U.S. Soccer National “A” License. A New York native, Dellorusso was instrumental in helping Maryland men’s soccer continue its success. He helped coach Maryland to the College Cup Final (where it lost to Notre Dame, 2-1) last December in his fourth season as an assistant.
In an exclusive with ODFCnews.com, Arizona United owner Kyle Eng said he spoke to several people from USL PRO coaches and owners to player agents, asking them who are the top young coaches in the game. And Dellorusso’s name kept coming up.
“We decided to go younger, someone who is the future of the game,” Eng said. “We wanted a young, aggressive guy who wants to grow the game. It makes a statement that we were able to get a guy of this caliber. To move him and his wife all the way out to Arizona, I wasn’t even sure we could get him. I wondered, ‘How is he going to leave Maryland?’ He was out top choice as we narrowed down the candidates.”
In 2012, Dellorusso helped guide Marlyand to the ACC regular season title (Maryland was also the nation’s top scoring team that season). In 2011, Maryland reached the NCAA Sweet 16. In 2010, in his first season as an assistant, Maryland won the ACC championship and finished 19-3-1 and ranked 4th in the country.
Dellorusso played for Maryland as a central defender from 2001-2005, leading Maryland to its first national championship since 1968 as a senior captain. FC Dallas drafted Dellorusso with the 42nd overall pick in the 2006 MLS SuperDraft, spending three seasons with the club and appearing 11 times. He went on to play one season with the Austin Aztex, who were then in the USL First Division.
“We wanted someone who has a winner’s pedigree and who would resonate with the players and communicate with the players,” Eng told ODFCnews.com. “He’s a great communicator. I think the fans will fall in love with him. Now that we found the face of our club, we go on to finding players.”
Dellorusso has a big task ahead of him. Not only is he entering his first professional coaching gig, he has to help Arizona United Director of Soccer Operations Kevin Stevenson build a roster from scratch (the club hasn’t signed any players yet but has an already existing pool to choose from) and he will only have about two weeks to try and form them into a cohesive enough unit to be competitive for the team’s first game — on April 12 vs. fellow expansion club Oklahoma City Energy FC at Peoria Sports Complex.
Dellorusso will also be around the same age and maybe even younger than those he will be coaching. A dynamic that will be interesting to observe from the start.
Arizona United first reached out to him two weeks ago over the phone while he was in Europe with the Maryland men’s soccer team. Dellorusso came back from the trip last weekend and arrived in Phoenix with his wife Hilary on Monday. They toured the stadium, the club’s facilities and Eng’s company, Arrowhead Advertising.
Eng said Dellorusso called to accept the head coaching position on Wednesday.
Dellorusso is expected to fly back to the Valley this weekend and meet with potential players and the team’s assistant coach, who will be announced on Saturday.