Naimo works with Katie Chapman during warm-ups for the Red Stars (Photo by Howard C. Smith, ISI Photos).
In his most recent post with us, Charlie Naimo touches on some recent developments for him within the women's game with the Chicago Red Stars and Pali Blues, but he also jumps into a new component of the game which has recently re-entered his professional career.
It has been a long time since my last blog… sorry for that. This time of year in soccer is always crazy, as you have to weigh all the options put in front of you. Here is what the future holds. For starters, we were all excited in Chicago to finally put it together at the very end of the season. From the day I accepted the position, I knew it was a great group of players, but what I learned when I got to know them was they were awesome people. We had to make some hard moves and change a mentality... and when things started looking good, we had to battle some injuries, national team call ups and visa issues. Through it all, we saw the fruits of making hard decisions when we beat Philly and Washington (2 playoff teams) in back to back games to end the season and just miss the playoffs. I honestly feel we were among the top few teams in the league at the end. Recently, we just traded for the services of Karina LeBlanc, and we are not done building on our very strong/cohesive nucleus. I am very excited to remain Technical Advisor for the Red Stars and continue to work in the growth of WPS.
In related news, the Pali Blues organization will look to rebound as we strive for our third W-League title in 4 years of existence. We are looking at a similar model to that of ‘09 when we had the top players in college soccer (top 5 picks in WPS draft), and we were affiliated with a WPS team. It goes without saying that we will serve as an ID element for CRS.
The addition to the Blues organization and my personal career is the arrival of the USL PRO men's team. Our ownership has had the dream of rolling out a professional men's team for a while, and now is the time. I was asked to take on the challenge of building the team on and off the field and so far, so good. We identified and hired a GM, Director of Operations and a VP of Sales and Marketing, and we have already begun working. Also in place is our coaching staff. Yours truly will be Manager (Head Coach) while Shayon Jalayer will serve as first team coach and director of youth development. We have already begun the process of fielding two academy sides with very aggressive plans attached. We have also brought on a very successful player personnel liaison. There are a few roles yet to fill, but we are in a great place.
Now the fun part - since I have accepted the position, it has been sleepless nights as we try to make up for being out of the men's game for so long. I am surrounded by great guys and loads of talent... if getting to know what is available here is not enough, I am hitting up all my international contacts I have developed from working with the best female players in the world. Between clubs, agents and former players, I trust that we have found that we will have access to players that will give us a shot to compete right out of the gates. The tricky part will be fitting them into the budget that our ownership gives us - another exercise I am used to (unfortunately).
I will say this - getting out there Tuesday against a group of Chivas players at HDC was so motivating and refreshing... I love challenges. As Shayon said, it was the first day of school, and it felt like that. Standing in front of a new group of players (all are on trial at the moment) always gives me the butterflies no matter who they are… men, women, W-League, Pro etc… it does not matter. You have to prove yourself to every new group and earn their respect just like they have to earn yours. I will never forget calling that first group of guys in that represented the new Blues jersey as I began to lay out the philosophy from tactics to housekeeping. They were all focused and most willing to be coached (the ones that did not buy in won’t be around that long anyway). We did not play the Chivas first team, but there were some guys that get games alongside others that train together on a regular basis. We played 3-30 minute periods and used the last 30 to group the top guys together, or the guys that stood by our points best... and actually held the play. What a great start. What an opportunity to evaluate players in such an environment. What a great future. There is a ton of work here and so many stones to turn over, but I think this organization is headed for some great things.