When Oklahoma City Energy FC announced John Pascarella as the club’s new head coach on November 22, 2019, the moment was both the culmination of one journey and the start of a new one for Pascarella.
Pascarella made pit stops in just about every area of American soccer before taking the reins of the USL Championship side. His polished resume includes a nine-year professional playing career in the United States and Peru, an MLS Cup and two US Open Cups as a member of the Sporting Kansas City coaching staff between 2009 and 2016, and a head coaching role with Des Moines Menace in 2017, one of League Two’s most storied clubs.
“Coaching my own team in League Two allowed me to try some things that I thought would work based on my experience to that point, but that I hadn’t truly been able to test yet,” said Pascarella of how coaching in League Two helped him grow technically and tactically. “Having the ability to try to implement my game model on our players in such a short and intensive window was a great experience because it gave me some insight into how quickly they could pick up certain aspects of the way I wanted to play.”
“It also presented all types of problems that I needed to manage,” Pascarella continued. “Balancing each player’s individual motivations, goals, and creating buy-in to the greater good of the group is always a challenge. The setting in Des Moines was a great place to practice those management skills.”
After a season with the Menace, Pascarella was hired as an assistant coach for MLS club Minnesota United. He holds a UEFA A License and a United States Soccer Federation A License, which he’ll put to good use in his first professional head coaching role in Oklahoma City this upcoming season.
“I’m very excited for the opportunity to help build something special,” said Pascarella of his new role. “On my many visits here, I’ve seen the city expand and the soccer culture thrive along with the city and the club. Because of that growth and the vision of the ownership group, I was ecstatic to be named Energy FC’s new head coach.”
Pascarella will lean on his previous head coaching experience with the Menace during his first year at the helm of Energy FC, who are looking to improve upon a 15th place finish in the Western Conference last season.
“Creating drills and activities to imprint the game model into our players decision-making, as well as having to make in-game adaptations to the opposition, were invaluable experiences to go through with Des Moines,” said Pascarella of how his League Two experience will serve him moving forward.
Pascarella’s fondest memories are of strong relationships he built with players, many of whom he says he still keeps in touch with as they continue their own journeys through soccer. Leigh Veidman, who played for multiple teams in League Two including the Menace, is now Pascarella’s assistant coach in Oklahoma City. Current prominent USL players Brandon Fricke (who moved from League One’s Lansing Ignite to Greenville Triumph this offseason) and Tucker Stephenson (of the Championship’s Swope Park Rangers) are also players Pascarella coached during their development processes.
He’ll have plenty of opportunity to continue shaping and improving players in his first head coaching role of a professional club, and Energy FC fans have plenty of reason to be excited with Pascarella as their new leader.
By CAMERON KOUBEK - firstname.lastname@example.org