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What DC United is Getting in Troy Lesesne

The Black & Red have officially hired their head coach, and now United fans and supporters are left asking, just what have we got in our new gaffer, and why did new DC United General Manager Ally Mackay select Troy Lesesne as his first major decision since being hired?

It’s a good question, and best answered looking at who Troy Lesesne is. I believe the answer to this is 

Lesesne is a young American coach on the rise, with personal ambitions. He has often been recognized for his potential and ability at the various levels of his coaching career. Once named to the United Soccer Coaches NCAA “Top 30 Under 30” coaches' program, Lesesne has literally risen up the coaching ranks from the bottom to the top. 

Initially Lesesne spent 10 years with his alma mater, the College of Charleston as an assistant coach, learning what it took to build a team and to develop young players.  This is when he was named to the 30 Under 30. Collegiate experience used to be more prevalent in American coaches, but in recent years has become less prevalent. However the ten years at College of Charleston provided an experience of working with young players, and building a team culture.

Wanting to advance his career, Troy Lesesne took advantage of a MLS/USL affiliate program, jumped to the professional ranks. He was hired by the Vancouver Whitecaps and was assigned as an assistant coach with the Charleston Battery.  This was his first experience with a professional club. His season there provided Lesesne with the experience necessary to be named the first assistant coach for the USL Championship expansion team, Charlotte Independence. 

Being part of an expansion team taught Lesesne what it takes to build a team culture from the ground up. Lesesne spent four years with Charlotte Independence improving as an assistant coach, before he would be given his first head coaching opportunity. It was at this point Lesesne was named both the Head Coach and Technical Director with the USL Championship expansion club, New Mexico United. 

Again, Troy Lesesne was tasked with building a team from scratch, and creating a culture and personality. Lesesne was fairly successful with the newly created New Mexico United. He led them to a 34-25-29 record, along with two playoff appearances and his team reached the quarterfinals of the 2019 Lamar Hunt US Open Cup, by defeating two MLS sides; the Colorado Rapids and FC Dallas. New Mexico United beat those MLS Teams and made the playoffs by being very well organized, playing strong defense, starting with well coordinated press.

Not only did Lesesne build a team, but as the Technical Director, he played an integral role in establishing the Diversity Fellowship Program and a fully-funded youth academy, which produced its first-ever homegrown signing in 2021. 

The next year, Lesesne was named the 2020 USL Co-Coach of the Year after helping New Mexico secure its first playoff win in club history. It therefore was a bit of a surprise when Lesesne stepped aside from New Mexico United, and took an assistant coach position with New York Red Bulls. 

This showed that Lesesne had an ambition to coach in first-division soccer; that he wanted to test himself in MLS, and he was willing to work his way up. The opportunity to be a head coach in MLS came faster than Lesesne was expecting when he was tapped to be the interim head coach with the New York Red Bulls last season. 

When Lesesne replaced Gerhard Struber at the Red Bulls, the team was spiraling, at the bottom of the table, having only won one match. It was Lesesne’s initial task to rebuild the fractured Red Bulls locker room and bring a level of organization to the high-pressing, transition style of soccer aligned with the Red Bull philosophy. The Red Bulls did continue to press, but with different lines of confrontation, more controlled triggers, and with a style that called for better ball control when the ball was won.

His time as the interim head coach was a mixed bag. When he was named the interim head coach on May 8, 2023 the New York Red Bulls were at the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings, with only one win. He was able to settle a fractured locker room, and get all the players on the same page. The results were seen immediately, as the Red Bulls won their next three matches, including over DC United in the US Open Cup. Yet over time his record was middle of the pack. Lesesne’s overall record during his head coaching tenure with the Red Bulls was 14-10-8, as he led the club to the Round of 16 in both the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup and Leagues Cup competitions. Lesesne was able to guide the Red Bulls into the eighth playoff spot, extending the team’s streak of playoff appearances. The eighth playoff spot earned Red Bulls the right to host the first ever MLS Wildcard game, which they won, their first postseason win since 2018. Red Bulls then played a best of three round against Supporters Shield winners, FC Cincinnati. They were swept out of the playoffs by Cincinnati, but played tough, and were not an easy out. The second game went to penalty shots, and was one unlucky attempt away from going to a third match.

Despite making the playoffs and getting the win, the Red Bulls did not choose to extend him as their head coach. The Red Bulls loss is United’s gain, because Troy Lesesne is a young up-and-coming coach, with twenty years of experience to rely on.

In looking at his time with New Mexico United, and his brief tenure with the Red Bulls, United fans can expect United to utilize some form of high press. Do not expect it to be a Red Bull’s style press though, but more zonal and organized, similar to what Philadelphia Union and FC Cincinnati have used the last few seasons.

So to answer the original question, what DC United is getting is someone who has worked at all levels of the US soccer pyramid, has learned and been successful. Someone who has ambitions, but has been willing to put in his dues.

Troy Lesesne brings a wealth of experience, just not the Atypical experience of a modern soccer coach. He has shown a dynamic coaching approach to the team’s he’s been with, but also a pragmatism in dealing with the players he has. Known for his player development skills, and a strong work ethic, United fans should expect their team to be organized and well prepared. 

Testimony from both New Mexico United and the New York Red Bull is that Lesesne’s coaching methods resonate well with players, fostering a positive team culture. DC United can expect a commitment to developing emerging talent under Lesesne’s leadership. His track record suggests a blend of results-driven coaching and nurturing a cohesive team environment for sustained success.

It’s safe to say that DC United has needed a reset for awhile, and in hiring his first head coach, Mackay has hired someone with years of experience building a team and culture from nothing to something. Troy Lesesne might just be what the Black & Red have desperately needed, a fresh start.


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