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Possession key to Jim McGuinness' plan with Independence
New coach has varied soccer background
Published Tuesday, December 11, 2018 2:02 pm
by Ashley Mahoney | The Charlotte Post

Three influential experiences will dictate Jim McGuinness’ coaching style in Charlotte.

The first-time head coach joins USL Championship side Charlotte Independence on a three-year deal. The club introduced him Tuesday at Jack’s House in Elizabeth, where the 46-year-old Irishman explained how his success in Gaelic football, coaching U-16, U-19 and U-20 squads with Scottish side Celtic, and his more recent position as an assistant with Beijing Guoan in the Chinese Super league predicates his vision for the Jacks.

“My background in Glasgow, they are a possession-based team,” McGuinness said. “They like to keep the ball. They like to break teams down. They like to play with a certain style—a lot of width, and a lot of creativity. My experience in Beijing was almost the opposite of that. The coach was not interested in possession at all. It was all very aggressive, very dynamic, in behind, long passes, getting up on top of that and pressuring it. Obviously my own experience as a Gaelic football coach comes into bear as well. Those three things will be the fundamentals for how I see the game, and how I would like the game to evolve while I am here.”

McGuinness brings an unconventional background to his role as head coach, which includes success with Gaelic football side Donegal as both a player and manager.

“He won as a player in 1992, and then actually did a double as a coach 20 years later,” said Independence general manager Mike Jeffries, who was head coach for Charlotte’s first four seasons. “Most recently, he was part of a club that not only won the Chinese FA Cup, but also finished fourth in the league—a major improvement from the year before.”

Charlotte’s time under Jeffries was possession-oriented, with an emphasis on building out of the back. Last season, they executed well in the middle third, but struggled in the attacking and defensive thirds.

“You need to be able to keep the ball,” McGuinness said. “You need to be able to use the ball, but you also need to be able to force the game, and impose yourself on the game. It is trying to marry those two fundamentals together that will underpin a lot of the style of play.”

McGuinness’ understanding of the USL coincides with a possession-oriented model.

“Having seen a lot of the games in the league now, a lot of the teams like to play out from the back,” he said. “They like to use the ball. They like to build through the thirds. For teams that like to be aggressive and press, there could be benefits for our style of play against a lot of the styles of play that are in the league.”

McGuinness returns to Ireland later this week to get his affairs in order, and move his family to Charlotte in January. He will also assemble a staff in the coming weeks.

Charlotte’s preseason is set to begin Feb. 11 as the tentative start date. All training and home matches will be held at the Sportsplex at Matthews.

Jeffries, who will travel to Orlando next month for the MLS combine, previously worked as director of player development for the Chicago Fire and sees transition with the Independence as a similar role.

“It’s a big change in the day to day,” he said. “I have been director of player personnel with the Fire, so I had a previous role, and I am comfortable with it. I knew that long-term, it was the direction that I would like to go.”

Charlotte also hired Dave Dixon, previously Charlotte Soccer Academy director for the Matthews area, as an assistant coach. For Dixon, who won the 2017 PDL title with the Charlotte Eagles, and spent last season as a USL assistant coach with Indy Eleven, joining the Jacks offers a homecoming.

“I just like helping players move onto the next level of developing,” Dixon said. “It is something that in my role with the academies and in my role with the PDL was a major focus of it. Obviously winning trophies is a great part of it as well. That’s one area that I will continue to really be involved in, helping players move from our team maybe onto bigger contracts or bigger places, but also within our team, is helping develop those players to take bigger roles within our group.”


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