On Wednesday afternoon, FC Cincinnati appointed Luke Sassano to the role of Technical Director. Sassano joins the Orange & Blue from the New York Cosmos where he filled the same position for the 2016 & 2017 seasons.
“We are looking forward to working with Luke and are excited to add an experienced Technical Director to the front office staff,” said FCC President and General Manager Jeff Berding in the club’s press release. “Luke is a great fit for our development as a professional franchise and he will spearhead our new youth academy efforts as well as work with the technical staff to identify and secure top talent in the years to come.”
The Orinda, Calif., native was drafted 32nd overall in the 2008 MLS SuperDraft by New York Red Bulls. featured in 42 matches with the Red Bulls, mostly at the defensive midfielder position. After his time with NYRB, Sassano moved to Kansas City through the MLS Re-Entry draft, playing in 10 matches. After five professional seasons in MLS and following two knee surgeries in 2012, Sassano chose to retire as a professional soccer player and pursued a future career in management.
In April of 2013 he became the Assistant Sporting Director for the New York Cosmos helping Head Coach Giovanni Savarese re-launch the rebranded historic club. Sassano was tasked with scouting both domestic and international talent and negotiated club contracts. Most importantly, Sassano was responsible for managing the roster’s salary budget for the 2nd division club.
“I would like to thank Carl H. Lindner III and the Lindner family, Jeff Berding, and the entire ownership group for the opportunity to work with one of the rising soccer franchises in this country,” said Sassano. “I look forward to being an integral part of the community in Cincinnati and experiencing first-hand the exciting energy of one of the country’s best fan base. I am eager to get started and to ensure that FC Cincinnati and its passionate supporters enjoy continued success and growth that aligns with the club’s immediate and long-term goals.”
During his time with the Cosmos, the club won NASL’s Soccer Bowl three times, (2013, 2015 & 2016), advanced to the fifth round of the US Open Cup three times (2014, 2015 & 2016) and a 50.66% winning percentage. Sassano helped bring legends Marcos Senna and Raul to the United States along with many high profile players such as Emmanuel Ledesma, Juan Arango, and Andrés Flores. After the 2015 season, Sassano was promoted to the role of Technical Director. In what could be said as his most impressive feat, Luke formed a quality NASL squad in short order during the 2016-17 offseason. This group of players finished as runner-up in the 2017 NASL Soccer Bowl, losing to Tyler Gibson’s San Francisco Deltas.
Bill – My initial reaction was disappointment. I was hoping for FCC to pull an experienced well known name out, someone with more experience and preferably someone with MLS experience. I was hoping for FCC to make a bold statement with a big name.
The reality of course is that there are not very many people who are going to fit that description. With MLS expanding, there isn’t exactly a line of ex-technical directors looking for work. And let’s be fair, simply taking a guy cause he used to do it isn’t exactly a good plan either. He’s got to be the right guy and the right fit for the city and the club. Luke Sassano is young, he hasn’t made a name for himself nationally yet. Is that bad? Does it mean he can’t do the job? Or does it mean he has lots of energy and is willing to try new things? As I think about this more, I realize MLS is going through an evolution. When David Beckham joined the league and the DP rule was drafted, the league started bringing in older, higher paid, stars in their sunset years. This turned MLS into a retirement league to a degree. But what we’re seeing in recent years is that clubs, that are having the most success, are bringing in young, talented, up and comers. We’re starting to move MLS from a retirement league to a selling league where big global clubs can come to find young talent. This is in process but we’re already seeing the beginnings of this.
Atlanta United made a huge impact last year bringing in young talented DPs who electrified 70k people who came out to their games. Perhaps in this young energetic new direction for MLS it isn’t unreasonable for FCC to set its sights on similar talent for its coaching staff? After all, technical directors don’t fall off of trees. Sure, it’s nice to have a big name with a proven record, but it’s even more exciting to see rising talent. I’m anxious to see what direction Sassano takes with the club. Will he focus on homegrown players and the development academy? Will he focus more on player acquisition? There is a lot to do for a team that expects to join MLS as early as next year. I welcome Sassano to Cincinnati. Good luck sir. I hope in a few years, you’re the experienced MLS technical director people all want to hire…….. and then they can’t have you.
Bryan – I like Bill was initially surprised by the hire. With the hopefully impending MLS announcement, my initial thought was that FCC would go with someone who had a more experienced background in that league. Also like Bill, I think this could be a hit. Sassano has gone out every year and signed guys who could compete for championships in NASL and in the US Open Cup. His teams defeated NYCFC twice and NYRB once in deep cup runs.
While not coming directly from an MLS club, Sassano probably has some familiarity with MLS roster mechanisms. The Cosmos frequently received MLS players on loans and sold two players to MLS clubs. Having solid relationships within the league will only help with the transfer of allocation money being a preferred method in player movement. I would also he has many contacts around the globe to recruit future players into a USL or MLS club. The Cosmos routinely played friendlies in the Middle-East, Asia and South America. His contacts in those areas could prove large in a transition to MLS.