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Saturday, April 13, 2024

Stars aligned for Ramsay to become new Loons coach

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A search process that finally put Eric Ramsay in place as the next Minnesota United head coach stretched into the season’s fourth week before he was officially introduced Wednesday at Allianz Field.The club announced his hiring late last month to replace Adrian Heath. Ramsay left his job as an assistant coach at Manchester United the next weekend and coached his new players on Tuesday for the first time.The Loons had been criticized in both the international press and on social media as being unorganized and indecisive for going into the season with their second interim head coach, Cameron Knowles.Three weeks into their eighth season, the Loons are battling Portland for first place in the Western Conference, with a 2-0-1 record that includes road wins at Austin FC and Orlando City.Ramsay said “the beauty” of the hiring process, which included waiting for his work visa, allowed him to study and learn his new team from afar.”I told the players yesterday, I know them far better than they know me,” Ramsay said. “I’ve had the luxury of being sat at home, watching games from last year, watching players on the scouting platforms we have, getting a feel for the league. On paper, it looks like a situation that wasn’t ideal, but I don’t really feel that way.”A first-time head coach, Ramsay led his first practice in Blaine on Tuesday, an energetic, vocal training session. Ramsay, 32, is set to coach Saturday’s home game against Los Angeles F.C., with Knowles — previously the head coach of the Loons’ second team — promoted to first-team assistant coach.Ramsay awaits another newly hired assistant, 49-year-old Dennis Lawrence from Coventry City in England’s second division, as well. Lawrence is a former Trinidad and Tobago national team head coach, infamously defeating the U.S. in the final game of the World Cup qualifying stage in 2017 to force the Americans to miss a World Cup for the first time since 1986.”I wanted to make sure I had someone who has been a head coach before,” Ramsay said. “Dennis has done it with Trinidad and Tobago. He’s got some years on me. He’s here to push me from a management perspective, to work with players because he’s excellent at that. I wouldn’t have wanted to step into a role like this without someone like him.”Ramsay calls his hiring the right opportunity at the right time for an aspiring coach who interviewed for the Barnsley head coaching job when Khaled El-Ahmad, the new Loons sporting director, was the CEO there.”The stars didn’t align,” El-Ahmad said Wednesday of the Barnsley encounter.They have now. Ramsay is the youngest coach in MLS by seven years, but he worked his way up. Both he and El-Ahmad agree on a high-pressing style of play the club has used successfully in the season’s first three games.”I wouldn’t be putting myself in this position if I didn’t think I was prepared to carry it out to a high level,” Ramsay said. “I was never in a mad rush to become a head coach. I never had a fixed point in my mind when I wanted to be a head coach. I wanted it to be the right circumstance, when I felt ready. If you could design a checklist of things to do before you become a head coach, I wouldn’t be far off from having completed a lot of those things.”The son of a language teacher who for a time lived in Spain, Ramsay speaks English, French and Spanish, is learning Welsh from his wife, and can converse in a couple other languages.The Loons have six players whose first language is Spanish. They also have players who speak Spanish, Korean and other languages.”I like that it’s a multi-cultural, a multilingual environment,” Ramsay said. “I think it will really stretch me. I couldn’t be joining at a better time with the competitions [including the 2026 World Cup coming to America] coming here. I’m really lucky for all the stars to have aligned at this point in my career.”Ramsay and El-Ahmad wore Minnesota United powder blue pullovers at the press conference. It was close enough to the blue of Manchester City, for whom El-Ahmad once scouted. Ramsay wore Manchester United red for nearly three years.”Ramsay goes from the red town of Manchester to the right color,” El-Ahmad said in introducing him. “And on the record, Man City is better than Man United.”

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