Newendorp, who came to Edmonton after a long career spent primarily in Oklahoma (working at soccer clubs such as Tulsa Roughnecks and Rayo OKC, as well as the Tulsa Drillers, double-A affiliate of MLB’s Los Angeles Dodgers), has actually been around the club a few months now. He came on, officially as a consultant, last spring, and he’s been working behind the scenes up to now.
“I’ve gotten to know the staff, I’ve looked at structures and been doing my own research trying to consult with the coaching staff as it were,” Newendorp explained to CanPL.ca, adding that he’s had a hand in the business and soccer sides of the equation.
“My role now is both, which is my agreement with the ownership group as part of my job description is to make sure the football team is competitive and healthy. I’ll have a hand in the roster for sure, but ultimately that’s the core product, and ideally what you need to get healthy so that the business is healthy and everything ties into that.”
That said, Newendorp will leave the bulk of the player personnel and roster composition decisions to the incoming coach.
“I’m not a GM because I’m a former player, I’m not a trained professional soccer coach,” he said. “I’ve hired coaches, I’ve worked player contracts, I’ve watched a lot of professional soccer matches, I know enough to have an educated opinion. But I’m not a soccer coach, I don’t come from that track. So we’ll rely heavily on our head coach to be a part of that process to build that roster and really take the lead on that, and I’ll come in where I’m needed.”
As for what’s next with the Eddies, Newendorp has big plans for moving the club forward after a tough 2020. His long-term priority is, broadly, to make the team consistently competitive, and to expand the club’s visibility in Edmonton.
“Short term goals are to fix processes, put things in place that can take us in a different direction,” Newendorp outlined. “And then through the season, prove to people that will have trusted us between now and then with their time, with their treasure, with their energy and emotions, that we’re backing that up.
“We’ll make mistakes, we won’t get it right; we’re obviously not gonna win every match, although we’re gonna try to, but if we can prove that we’re trying to improve every day and we’re working hard to be something this community can be proud of, and that we represent this wonderful city in the best way possible as a professional sports team, that’s our goal.”
In the longer term? Newendorp is perhaps even more ambitious, foreseeing some great things to come for the club and the Fath brothers as owners.
“Within the next two, three, five years, we better have won at least one championship,” he said. “We have been around for 10 years. The Faths have been very, very patient, they’ve put a lot of time and energy and resources into this club, don’t take that for granted. I’d like to think that myself and the coach and those players will have a hand here sooner rather than later to deliver them a championship they deserve.”
Finally, the biggest question hanging over FC Edmonton right now: Who’s going to coach this team in the wake of Jeff Paulus? Newendorp revealed that the process is quite advanced, with a list narrowed down to a few finalists. He told CanPL.ca that he expects the club to make an announcement “within the next 10 to 14 days.”
He added that there are a few specific things he and ownership are looking for in a new coach, beyond a proven track record for winning.
“I didn’t really want somebody that was looking for their seventh, eighth, ninth, tenth job,” he said. “I also wasn’t necessarily looking for somebody that was looking for their first head coaching job, although with that said, some of our top candidates, this would be their first job and they’re very, very qualified.”
Newendorp continued: “We’ve talked to people from all over the world. The other thing that’s important for me is that they have a good network, they know how to find talent, vet it. … We wanted a coach that had some first-team head coaching experience, ideally. We wanted a coach that understood and was willing to have a strong connection to the business side of things and the front office, that understood the role of the soccer team as the core product, but wasn’t working in its own silo — understood how it connected to what we needed to do from making our business healthy.”
The incoming GM also addressed the rest of the coaching staff; the Eddies still have several experienced assistant coaches in the likes of Sean Fleming and Lars Hirschfeld. Newendorp wasn’t able to guarantee anything about the rest of the staff, pointing out that new head coaches occasionally like to assemble their own teams, which means it’s unclear who exactly will or won’t be with the club come next season.
There’s plenty of work ahead for Newendorp and FC Edmonton, and plenty of announcements to come in the next few months. Ultimately, the club’s newest leader is confident in his vision for the team, and excited to put it in motion.
“I have to prove it,” he said. “We have to prove it collectively, it’s not just gonna be me. It’s gonna take all hands on deck.”