Talking with Paul Dalglish

A conversation with the Austin Aztex new old coach

Dalglish (l) shakes hands with Aztex owner David Markley.
Dalglish (l) shakes hands with Aztex owner David Markley.

"I am very very passionate about the way my teams try and play," Austin Aztex head coach Paul Dalglish told me on the phone from Salt Lake City Wednesday afternoon. He's still trying to orchestrate his move back to Austin, but it's clear his head is totally here already, and he's focused on next year's USL PRO debut. Here's what he had to say:

Paul Dalglish: How are you?

Austin Chronicle: I’m well. And you?

PD: Very good, yeah. I’m online every day, trying to find a house to move into when we get back. But, it’s getting harder and harder in Austin. A whole lot of people want to live there now, so…

AC: Yeah. It’s crazy …

PD: Ridiculous.

AC: Yeah. But, you’re coming back anyway.

PD: Correct. Oh, we’ll find something …

AC: Well, I just have a few questions. Mostly, I just wanted to say, I’m so happy you’re coming back; I think that’s a great sign for the team, and I hope it’s working out well for you. This is wonderful.

PD: Thank you very much.

AC: So, you’ve been at all sorts of different levels of American soccer now in three years: You were a PDL coach here with the Aztex, and then you were an MLS coach [at Real Salt Lake], and now you’re a USL PRO coach. So I guess I’m sort of wondering, what do you bring back from a year in MLS? Does that open any eyes, or, what did you learn out of it?

PD: Yeah, when you’re working alongside people as talented as the people I was working alongside in SL, you can only learn. All the way from the president – The owner was a great person, Dell Loy Hansen, the president, Bill Manning was a great guy, Garth Lagerwey, the general manager was a great guy, head coach Jeff Cassar, the assistants … you can’t do anything but learn from these people. I’m certainly coming back a better coach from the experience in Salt Lake, and picked up a few new ideas that hopefully I can implement when the season starts.

AC: There’s a lot of talk and wondering about levels, obviously, with the Aztex moving up, and I’m sure you’ve been following all the talk about having an MLS team here eventually. … In the short term, though, there’s talk of a partnership with an MLS team; do I understand correctly that those are largely geographically based as much as possible?

PD: No, I don’t think the geographical base is gonna determine who we affiliate with. Obviously, there’s people looking at teams located closer to home who think that’s the logical choice, but … It’s much more than a geographical decision; for these affiliations to work, there’s gotta be, at all levels, the ability to work together. You’ve got to fit; you’ve got to be a match with that organization. So, the most important thing for us is that it’s a beneficial professional relationship for both parties, that will determine who we partner with both on and off the field. Because, these relationships have got to work. I’m a big believer, that it’s all about people; so it’ll be based on relationships rather than location.

AC: Right. Well, your strongest relationships, I guess, are with Houston and Salt Lake now. Can we take that as any sort of indication of anything?

PD: Yeah, that’s fair, that I’ve got really good ties with those clubs. But, if you start thinking that the best people to do business with are through friendships, then you won’t get too far. We’ve got to pick the best people to do business with. And the ownership group and myself, we’ll be working very hard to make sure that we make the right decision – if we indeed decide to partner with anybody.

AC: Yeah. That ownership group has changed considerably since you were here before, and by all accounts for the better. They had an impressive year here.

PD: Mm hmm.

AC: So, the move up is going to be interesting, in a lot of ways; I wonder: The Aztex traditional role has been largely about player development, and with a large local component, and the team has been proud of having a lot of local kids, and I wonder, how do you balance that with the needs of competing on a national level as a USL PRO team?

PD: Well, we competed on a national level in the PDL with a lot of local players. So there’s no reason why we can’t compete on a national level in the USL PRO as well. Obviously, it’s a jump up in standard, but if you look at the players we had in the PDL who were local – Kekuta Manneh went on to play MLS, after he left the Aztex; Kris Tyrpak went on to play MLS; Travis Golden got drafted in MLS by DC United … If you look at the players that have been developed in Austin by the local clubs, it gives me a great advantage over other cities in the professional ranks, because these players are getting developed really well by the local clubs, and it certainly makes my job easier to be able to take players from your doorstep rather than having to look all over the world to find players. We really believe in being Austin’s team; and that means at least giving the opportunity to local players to make the team first, and nothing will make me happier than seeing – I worked in the grassroots level in Austin for years, and nothing will make me prouder than seeing some of the guys that I’ve seen playing on the youth soccer fields in Austin pulling on an Aztex jersey as a professional player. Of course, you’ve got to be good enough. It’s not a charity; it’s a professional franchise. So, if these players are good enough, they will get an opportunity; if they’re not, then we’ll need to find players elsewhere.

AC: Well, that sort of leads to my last question. I wasn’t really going to ask about specific players, but you’ve brought up a few names already, and obviously you’re familiar with a lot of the roster that played here two years ago. In general, are we going to see a lot of the same players back? Do we have the nucleus of a USL PRO team here, or do you feel like you’re sort of starting from scratch, or is it somewhere in between?

PD: No, I think it would be irresponsible to start from scratch, when we’ve had such a successful PDL team. And as I’ve said, the players that have left us have gone to a higher level than we’re going to play at next year. The likes of Dillon Powers, Kekuta Manneh, Michael Lisch, you know, Kris Tyrpak – all these guys are playing at the MLS level; they’re all on MLS rosters – and we’ll probably have some guys in the draft this year as well, like Tony Rocha, Seth Casiple, Mikey Ambrose is somebody who’s probably going to end up in MLS. So, you look at it and you think, you know, if these players are good enough for MLS, then we’re certainly going to have players that were on our roster over the last three years that are good enough for the USL PRO.

AC: Okay, well, that’s all I’ve got, unless you have anything you want to add, before you get back to house-hunting.

PD: No, no, actually, it’s on my breaks that I’m house hunting. We’re actually, honestly, trying to get ahead of the curve. There’s a lot of expansion teams, so, most of my time at the moment is trying to put a short list together of potential targets – so that’s kind of what’s taking up the time at the moment, but it’s exciting. It really is exciting. There’s nothing really I’ve got to say. It’s just planning at this moment in time.

AC: Right. Well, it’s exciting from this end too. It’s a long time until next season – but a lot shorter time than it would’ve been this time last year.

PD: Yeah, for sure. Well, listen, people are probably a little bit anxious to see what type of level it’s going to be; what it’s going to be like when we go pro. Well, we’re going to play exactly the same way. … I am very very passionate about the way my teams try and play. And that is to be dominant with and without the ball, and to control the game with and without the ball from start to finish. And we want to make – House Park has been a fortress in the whole time that we’ve been there for PDL, and we’ll be doing everything in our powers to make sure that it’s a fortress in the USL PRO as well.

AC: Excellent. Well, we’ll be talking again when you get to town, I guess…

PD: For sure. For sure. Hopefully I’ll find a house by then…

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Aztex, USL Pro, Paul Dalglish

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