Simon Elliott has been hired as Republic FC’s head coach, the team announced Thursday.
Elliott replaces Paul Buckle, who stepped down from his roles as head coach and technical director after leading the team to a 31-19-21 record and three USL playoff berths in two-plus seasons.
Elliott, 43, is a former New Zealand national team captain who previously served as Republic FC Academy’s head coach for the U-15/16 and U-17 squads since 2015. He was named USSDA Western Conference U-15/16 Coach of the Year for the 2016-2017 season.
“I am delighted to be continuing with the Republic FC,” said Elliott in a news release. “My passion for the sport and my role with the club comes from working with players everyday. It is interesting and challenging, but also immensely rewarding. Taking on this more senior role as we build towards MLS creates an opportunity for all of us, including our focus and success in our current season. I am grateful to Kevin, Todd and the entire club and I couldn’t be more excited about the future of Republic FC.”
Elliott found success at all levels as a player and became known for his deft passing. He played a key role in New Zealand reaching the 2010 World Cup when it fell one point short of advancing to the Round of 16.
“He’s going to have the respect of everybody right away,” said general manager Todd Dunivant, who was introduced alongside Elliott on Thursday after his own hiring was announced the previous day. “He’s a guy that has leadership and he does it in a way that doesn’t say, ‘Hey look at me, I’m the big man,’ but everyone knows it.”
Elliott moved from New Zealand to the United States in 1997 to play for Stanford, where he appeared in 45 matches over two seasons, before launching his Major League Soccer career with the LA Galaxy.
He also played for MLS sides Columbus Crew, San Jose Earthquakes and Chivas USA, and his 56 career assists are tied for 26th most all-time in league history. He took a break from the MLS in 2006 to play three seasons in the Premier League with Fulham.
At least one Republic FC player knows Elliott from his days on the pitch: midfielder Adam Moffatt, who played in the MLS from 2008-14.
Moffatt said the players learned of Buckle’s departure Wednesday night before finding out Elliott would be the new coach Thursday. He speculated Buckle’s inability to reach the high bar set in Republic’s FC expansion season, when the club won the USL championship, may have contributed to his and the club’s parting.
“The timing, obviously, it’s a little bit close to the new season, so that’d probably be a little bit surprising,” Moffatt said. “Paul had a good time here. You look at the record, it’s impressive the amount of wins that he’s achieved. And obviously, not winning that championship is hard. That first year, winning the championship, it sets up (something) that’s tough to do.”
Elliott showed up to Thursday’s news conference with a splint on his left middle finger, protecting a ligament he said he hurt stopping a shot on goal while working with Republic FC’s U-19 team.
Benjamin Ziemer, the club’s new assistant head coach, followed his boss from the training academy to the USL squad. Ziemer was the head coach of Republic FC’s U-19 team last year and served as an assistant on the U-17 team.
A former Sonoma State player and coach, Ziemer was an assistant on the U-14 and U-15 national teams that included future stars such as Christian Pulisic, now a 19-year-old attacking midfielder with Borussia Dortmund in Germany.
Republic FC opened training camp Thursday and hosts their first friendly Feb. 15 against Seattle Sounders FC of the MLS.
The team announced Buckle’s departure earlier Thursday morning as a mutual decision.