The Verde Report: Rodolfo Borrell Joins Austin FC as New Sporting Director

Club swings for the fences – and hits – with international hire

Rodolfo Borrell in 2018 (Photo by Charmander10, CC BY-SA 4.0)

As the MLS midseason transfer window gets set to open this month, Austin FC has already locked up arguably the league's signing of the summer … even though this person won't see a single minute of action on the pitch.

The man in question is Rodolfo Borrell, who last Friday signed a multiyear contract to become Austin FC's sporting director, filling a void originally created in January when Claudio Reyna stepped down from the same position amid U.S. national team controversy.

While Reyna, pre-scandal, provided ATXFC with a well-connected and high-profile face for its front office, Borrell could be all of that on an entirely new level, if he lives up to his résumé. Across nearly three decades in professional soccer, the 52-year-old Spaniard has been at the center of some of the biggest achievements the sport has ever seen.

After kicking off his career as a youth coach at Barcelona's legendary La Masia academy – where he mentored a teenage Lionel Messi, among many other Blaugrana greats – Borrell migrated to England to take an elevated role in Liverpool's youth system. Most recently, Borrell spent the last nine seasons with Manchester City, where he served as an assistant coach to Pep Guardiola, universally recognized as the greatest soccer coach in the game. Borrell was Guardiola's right-hand man this past season as City secured the "treble" of winning the Premier League, UEFA Champions League, and FA Cup in the same season.

His next stop is Austin.

"I wanted to join MLS for a long time now. It's been always an ambition of mine. Although, up until now, I thought it wasn't the moment. I believe right now is the moment," Borrell said in an edited interview posted to Austin FC's social media.

While the term "sporting director" is usually understood to mean the soccer equivalent of a general manager in major American sports, Borrell's unique experience will likely lead to his purview spanning beyond just the signing and selling of first-team players. Clearly he will take an intimate involvement in further developing Austin's fledgling academy system. There is also the potential, based on Borrell's coaching experience, that he may want to collaborate with Josh Wolff on the club's first-team tactics.

"With Josh … we've known each other for a while," Borrell said. "I am very much looking forward to working with him."

While Wolff remains one of American soccer's fast-rising young coaches, it's no insult to point out that Pep Guardiola he is not. It will be important for Borrell to understand that and temper expectations accordingly. And while Borrell claims to be a longtime follower of MLS, there will surely be a learning curve as he gets himself up to speed on the league's cryptic and never-ending rules governing roster building. Luckily for him, Sean Rubio, who served as the club's interim sporting director after Reyna's departure and has extensive experience with all things TAM/GAM/DP/etc.-related, is remaining in a high-level role in the ATX front office.

Borrell won't have much time to settle in before his services are required to help Austin FC make a late charge to the MLS Cup Playoffs. The summer transfer window officially opened Wednesday and El Tree has more than a couple areas in need of reinforcements, most notably center back.

After drawing a Messi-less Inter Miami CF 1-1 in Fort Lauderdale over the weekend, the Verde and Black now prepare to head to St. Paul for a July 8 road clash against Minnesota United, another club hoping to ignite a charge as the summer properly kicks into gear.

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Austin FC, Rodolfo Borrell, Josh Wolff, Manchester City, Pep Guardiola, Sean Rubio

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