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Sawatzky Sets Out Stall as Kickers’ New Boss

By NICHOLAS MURRAY - nicholas.murray@uslsoccer.com, 11/15/19, 5:22PM EST

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Relationship from playing days with Richmond Chairman Ukrop aided move to City Stadium


New Richmond Kickers Head Coach and Sporting Director Darren Sawatzky met with local media on Friday as he took officially the reins at his new club. | File photo courtesy Lucas Kschischang / Toronto FC II

RICHMOND, Va. – Both as a player and a coach, Darren Sawatzky has had the opportunity to be a visitor to the Richmond Kickers’ home at City Stadium in the past and admired the historic club from afar.

Now, as the club’s new Head Coach and Sporting Director, he is excited to get going and restore the club’s luster as it prepares for the 2020 USL League One season.

“For me, life is about people,” said Sawatzky at his introductory press conference on Friday. “Bad programs with good people do just fine. Good programs with bad people struggle. And good programs with good people do very, very well. This group of people has the right mindset. They have a history in the game. The community here, every time I’ve come here, I’ve had a great experience even when [the Red Army] heckle[s] me. To have the opportunity to help build a team and work with great people, it’s a knockout punch. I’m very lucky and very humbled.”

The former FC Tucson Head Coach’s playing days helped open the opportunity to move to Richmond this offseason, having played alongside current Kickers Chairman Rob Ukrop with the New England Revolution early in his career. The two remained friends over the years as Sawatzky’s coaching path took him to as varied ports as Head Coach of the Guam National Team and Director of Seattle Sounder FC’s Youth Development, but when the Kickers’ position came open this offseason, Sawatzky brought it up during one of their regular conversations.

“We were just discussing as friends and it came up in conversation,” he said. “From there I showed my interest because I was very excited about the opportunity.”

The Kickers are looking for a reboot on the field after missing out on the postseason for the past three seasons, including a ninth-place finish this past year in League One’s inaugural season that put the side one place below Sawatzky’s Tucson side. With 12 players set to return from the past campaign, the club has already begun work in recruitment for players that will hopefully return Richmond to the successes of its past.

“How we enhance the 12 players that are signed right now is going to be very important, and we need to get it right, so that’s the starting point,” said Sawatzky. “From there, we’ll look at the ecology and how we build out how we’re going to play. I have an idea of how I want us to play, but ultimately players dictate that. If you have the opportunity to bring in a player that enhances your team and changes things, then I have to beg [Kickers President] Matt [Spear] and Rob and try to get these guys in to do that.”

Whatever the Kickers’ set-up strategically looks like next season, though, Sawatzky is aiming for one characteristic to shine through when his side gets on the field.

“I never play for a point,” he said. “This is USL League One and I probably wouldn’t be much different if I ever had the chance to coach in MLS ten years from now or whenever – I’m here to win games. I want to play attacking soccer. I want to go after teams, and I want to win the soccer game. At home you will 100 percent get us going after teams. Our team will play ‘til the last second up 3-0 or down 3-0, we will go after the game. I’m here to win games. It’s time to go for it.”


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