NOTE: I hope you enjoy this.
Minnesota United has been on the lookout for veteran talent for the entire 2014 offseason, so perhaps it was inevitable that eventually, they would turn the looking glass inward. Tuesday, the club announced that head coach Manny Lagos would return to a playing role in 2014, becoming the NASL’s first player-coach of the modern era.
Since taking over as Minnesota’s head coach, Lagos has often been frustrated at his inability to find players to live up to the standard that he set during a career that spanned five different MLS teams. His 170 MLS appearances, and three for the national team, immediately vault him to the top of the experience list for United; perhaps only Aaron Pitchkolan, who turned out for Dallas and Colorado 77 times, can rival his coach and now-colleague’s experience.
In 2013, Lagos had to participate in training as a player fairly regularly , given the rash of injuries that hit the club during the first half of the season. Perhaps it was those sessions that convinced Lagos that, with a proper off-season preparation, he still had what it took to play at the top level.
The move is just the latest in a swarm of veterans that have taken over Minnesota in the offseason. New signing Daniel Mendes is 33 already, and off-season signings Juliano Vicentini, Omar Daley, and Tiago Calvano will all turn 33 during the season. Lagos, at 42, will be the senior player for Minnesota.
Assistant coach Carl Craig will likely take over match-day responsibilities from the sideline, at least while Lagos is on the field.
Lagos, who last saw the field in Minnesota in 1996 as part of the old Thunder, will likely slot in near the front of the United attack – perhaps at the top of a midfield triangle. At six feet tall, the veteran coach and player might also work as a target forward, should Christian Ramirez go down or disappoint in that role.
“I’m very excited to be able to play in Minnesota once again,” said Lagos in a press release. He was unavailable for comment, in either a playing or a coaching role.
The move opens the door for Atlanta Silverbacks coach Eric Wynalda, at 44 only two years Lagos’s senior, to make a similar return to the playing field. Wynalda, who famously will be with Atlanta only part-time this year, boasts an even more impressive playing resume, with 107 caps and 34 goals for the national team to his credit.
The team released a video interview with Lagos: