NASL Notes: Indy, Strikers Settle on Coaches, Minnesota Shakeup, Stars test Free Agency

Kristian Nicht to Montreal Impact

by JAKE NUTTING

The first week of December has delivered several interesting developments for NASL fans in this young offseason. After a tumultuous season that saw half of the teams in the league axe their head coaches, it appears that every vacancy has been filled — apart from the San Antonio Scorpions whose future still lingers in limbo between the NASL and USL.

Fort Lauderdale Strikers: The Strikers didn’t have to look very far for their new boss. General Manager Caio Zanardi will assume head coaching duties for the South Florida side, confirming former coach Gunter Kronsteiner’s assertion that the executive had his eyes on claiming the role he when joined in July.

This won’t be Zanardi’s first time in the coaching chair. The 42-year-old cut his teeth primarily in Brazil as the coach of the country’s U-17 team and S.E. Palmeiras’ U-17 and B team.

Minnesota United FC: The most surprising coaching move of the week was undoubtedly a report from Northern Pitch that Minnesota’s Manny Lagos will be step down as head coach to focus on technical director duties full time ahead of the team’s move to Major League Soccer in 2017 or 2018. According to the report, assistant coach Carl Craig will be the one stepping up to replace Lagos.

Craig has big shoes to fill as the follow up to Lagos. Through six seasons in Minnesota, Lagos led the Loons to a championship win in 2011, a follow up final appearance in 2012, and two semifinal appearances in 2014 and 2014.

Indy Eleven: The club from the Circle City finally confirmed persistent rumors that Tim Hankinson will be returning to the NASL to lead Indy from the sidelines next season. Indy’s owner Ersal Ozdemir mentioned experience as a deciding factor in his coaching search, and that is certainly something that Hankinson has in spades. Along with being a longtime veteran of MLS at the Tampa Bay Mutiny and Colorado Rapids, Hankinson also served as coach for the San Antonio Scorpions in their 2012 inaugural season when the club shocked the league and finished first in the regular season standings. Things went south for Hankinson in the second year, however, and he was let go in the middle of the 2013 campaign. After a hiatus from coaching, Hankinson recently led Montego Bay United of the Jamaican first division to the top of the standings in the first half of their 2015-16 season. Indy also announced that interim coach Tim Regan will remain with the club as an assistant to Hankinson.

Stars Moving On

New ownership and expansion in the NASL over the past few seasons has provided some stability, but it also created a burgeoning free agent market for proven stars to dip their ties into. Two of the league’s most high profile players are doing just that this offseason.

After destroying the competition in his debut season, Golden Ball and Golden Boot winner Stefano Pinho has elected to move on from the Fort Lauderdale Strikers and sensational winger Lance Laing has done the same by revealing his departure from FC Edmonton. Both players reportedly rejected highly lucrative offers to re-sign with their clubs in order to test their worth in free agency.

According to the same Norther Pitch report about Minnesota’s coaching shakeup, Pinho is apparently already locked into a deal with the Loons. Laing has also been connected with Minnesota, though he has garnered interest from a number of teams in the league and in MLS. Nothing has been announced or confirmed yet, but the prospect of attackers like Pinho and Laing joining the team that already led the NASL in scoring in the last two seasons is a scary one for teams across the league. Combined, Pinho and Laing accounted for 24 goals and 14 assists this past year.

Over in Indy, Kristian Nicht announced via his twitter page that he will be departing the club:

Nicht started in 20 matches for the club this season and has become a fan favorite since entering the fray in 2014.