If you assumed that Greg Vanney jumped at the chance to be a Chivas USA assistant coach without hesitation when pal Robin Fraser came knocking, you’d be wrong.
Although it was a dream opportunity and almost a perfect fit, it caused a conflict with Vanney’s job as director of the RSL-AZ residency program – something about which this former league veteran has become very passionate.
“There are a few things that I’d like to accomplish in the game as a coach and one is to make a difference on the youth development side,” Vanney told MLSSoccer.com. “And I thought we had a great opportunity to do that in a short period of time [with the RSL-AZ program], and we made a lot of people think about the residential option, and how important that is.
“It really showed people, and made them think about how they take the next steps, and what the next steps are. So I was excited about that – it was a passion of mine.”
Vanney is expecting that once he, Fraser, and the team are able to get past the triage phase, where more pressing matters with the first team players need to be dealt with, then perhaps he’ll be able to dedicate some time to youth development for Chivas USA.
“It’s not my No. 1 focus right now or the No. 1 focus of the club in terms of my role, but down the road – yes,” Vanney said. “Right now the primary responsibility with Robin is to improve the first team so that we can be competitive this year. Long-term, we want this team to be a product of the youth academy.”
[inline_node:325896]Vanney and Fraser were teammates with the LA Galaxy in the late 1990s, but even back then Vanney had a focus on player development, and he and Fraser had numerous discussions on the topic.
“While we were there, we were very close friends, lived a mile apart, and did some youth soccer coaching together there,” Vanney said. “When Robin retired, he actually moved to Arizona and took over the youth club that I had started for a year. So we did a lot of discussing player development and curriculum development and how we were going to go about things there.”
For now, Vanney seems to be shadowing Fraser and his career. Like Fraser, he was a well- respected defender known for his work-ethic, cerebral approach, and respect for the game. He retired three years after Fraser, worked some with youth development after retirement, and is now moving into an assistant coaching position behind a new head coach in a program in need of an overhaul.
“I feel like it’s a natural fit, and I’m absolutely ready for the opportunity,” Vanney said.
“I actually feel like I just stepped into the best assistant position in MLS, because I know what our collaboration will be, and I know the responsibilities that he wants from me, and I’m not going to be here just moving cones,” Vanney added. “We’ll be an important part of rebuilding this team and the franchise and trying to move forward.”
Meanwhile, Vanney is making sure to help wrap up things with his previous position as director of the RSL academy. He’s working with the group that runs the academy, Grande Sports World, and Real Salt Lake to help find a successor.
However, RSL GM Garth Lagerwey believes that the foundation laid by Vanney will bode well for the future of the program, regardless of who is selected as Vanney’s successor.
“In a year’s time, Real Salt Lake has created tremendous momentum with the RSL-AZ youth academy, and the months and years ahead look very optimistic for the program thanks in large part to the solid foundation put in place by Greg and his staff,” said Lagerwey.