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5-22-22 Gotham FC vs Louisville

Gotham FC Hire 2018 Concacaf Women’s Coach of the Year Hue Menzies

If anyone can make miracles happen, it’s Hue Menzies.

On Saturday, Gotham FC announced Menzies as interim head coach for the remainder of the 2022 season. The former Jamaican Women’s National Team coach has an extensive soccer background, both as a coach and player. 

In a statement released through the club, Menzies stated, “I want to thank Yael [Averburch West] and ownership for giving me the opportunity to work with such gifted athletes. This is an incredibly committed team and there’s still time left in the season to turn things around. I’m excited to get to know these players and help aid their progress anyway I can.”

In addition to his 35+ years coaching career, Menzies has also played at the collegiate level, playing for four years at Hardin-Simmons University, and professionally in the American Soccer League in the 1980s. After turning to coaching full-time, he coached at a number of different institutions including Abilene High School, the University of Texas at Austin, the U.S. Olympic Development Program, and the U.S. Women’s National U-19 team. 

A Trailblazer for Youth and Women’s Soccer

Notably, Menzies has helped lead and develop several different programs from the ground up. In 2004, Menzies was a co-founder and director for the Lonestar Soccer Association in Austin, Texas. In 2008, he left for Florida, where he is currently the Executive Director of Kraze Florida Krush, a premier youth soccer organization in Central Florida.

Though fundamental in developing the soccer paths of thousands of youth players, Menzies’ biggest feat could arguably be leading the Jamaican Women’s National Team to qualify for the 2019 Women’s World Cup. Facing a difficult group, Jamaica was able to upset Costa Rica 1-0 in the group stage, and eventually beat out Panama 4-2 on penalties in the third-place match to become the first Caribbean nation to qualify for the FIFA Women’s World Cup. In recognition of the team’s superb performance, Menzies would go on to win the 2018 CONCACAF Women’s Football Coach of the Year Award.

And yet, this isn’t even Menzies’ most impressive feat: not only did he lead Jamaica to qualify for its first-ever World Cup, but he did so virtually as a volunteer, with little to no funding provided by the Jamaican Football Federation for himself nor the players.

Disbanded twice, once in 2010 and again in 2016, the Jamaican Women’s National Team struggled to receive funding for uniforms, travel expenses, and even food. Yet, despite the odds, Jamaica proved to be a team that never stops fighting, with their performance in 2018 laying the initial groundwork for their development, breakthrough onto the international stage, and ultimate second World Cup qualification this past summer

Beating the Odds

This fighting spirit may be part of the reason why Menzies loves a good challenge.

Speaking to the press directly for the first time on Sunday, Menzies talked through his decision of accepting the position with Gotham. “I’m a person of adversity,” he chuckles softly while explaining, “I love adversity, I love the challenge of building. If you’ve followed my career, I’ve always built.”

Despite leaving behind (for a short time) his club in Florida and an ill mother, Menzies explained he’s eager to learn from this position and provide his own mentorship and guidance for the team. While some coaches would be wary of accepting such a position – taking over a well-regarded professional team, mid-season, that’s severly underperforming would scare even the most experienced of coaches – but Menzies exudes nothing but confidence and hope. “…with six weeks to eight weeks,” he smiles, eyes alight with hope that only a man who’s seen the impossible happen can see, he responds, “I think we can work with it. It’s just like coaching a national team.”

Light for Gotham

Realistically speaking, Gotham’s playoff intentions may not be their most pressing issue at the moment. A team that has looked at times unenthused and unhappy playing this season, Gotham will need an entire mentality shift to move forward in a positive direction. It is a sentiment that General Manager Yael Averburch has propositioned numerous times for the club, a “winning mentality,” that unfortunately does not develop overnight. Menzies, having guided soccer club’s development his whole life, understands this better than anyone: “Even though it’s a short term left, you still got to worry about next year too… you’re setting the foundation for the following year’s season. We’re thinking long term.”

And yet, Menzies still sees so much more from this team. When addressing short-term fixes that can be made to have immediate impact on the team and its season, Menzies states clearly, “To be honest, the roster is better than the results right now. We got players here. We just got to get them feeling like they can play to their strengths again.”

He notes that though the team has struggled tremendously in the final third, the attack will have to be generated in the midfield. “You got McCall [Zerboni], you got Kristie Mewis, they’re solid professionals. We need to get them more involved, more on the ball, and have them anchor the attack.” By moving the ball more, Menzies plans to bring more players involved into the attack, and get the team to work more as a collective moving forward.

Short-Term Stint – For Now

Despite Menzies’ strong background and experience, it doesn’t seem like he plans to stay past the end of the season – at least, at the moment. Highlighting a commitment to help Gotham fight out the rest of the season, Menzies also noted a responsibility to “help [the team] find a coach” for the next season. It’s far too early to speculate what, if any, interest Menzies may have in taking over as official coach once the season ends. His commitment to his own soccer program and family in Florida is both admirable and understandable.

Yet, despite declining offers from other clubs in the past, Menzies still accepted Gotham’s call. To make the move out from sunny Florida to unpredicatble NY/NJ is not an easy one, especially when, as Menzies pointed out himself, “I’m really happy where I am.” Still, Gotham’s strength and potential spoke to Menzies, enough at least to move him to try and make the impossible possible again, but here, in Red Bull Arena, for the club of beaches, skyscrapers, and dreams.

Gotham FC will play Orlando Pride at Subaru Park in Chester, PA on Saturday, August 20th. For more information, visit their website.